Computer Privacy

By Henry Bagdasarian

Computer privacy has become a huge concern as we increasingly use portable computers and share public computers or Internet access points for personal and business purposes. Work away from the office policies have allowed employees to take their portable computers out of the office. This computer portability along with the availability of public computers and Internet access points are increasing the risks of computer privacy which we will discuss.

As computer portability made life convenient, it also presented certain privacy risks. Students, entrepreneurs and others like me who perform best when they are not alone excitedly took their computers to public places like the coffee shops or libraries to work on their projects and then came the Internet which made computer privacy even worse. With portable devices, we had to first worry about people around us being able to see our information as we worked on our projects, and now stolen laptops and data storage devices are also being publicized as companies store millions of customer and employee numbers on their portable devices causing computer privacy concerns.

As the Internet gained global acceptance to connect us all while we slowly come to understand and accept the computer privacy risks, more businesses concerned with profit margins feel the need to cut rent and office costs allowing their employees to telecommute or forcing them to share office space with their colleagues raising additional computer and desk privacy concerns. Both telecommuting and office sharing increase the risk of privacy disclosure especially when telecommuting is from internet enabled coffee shops and other public places to access company systems and information. Let's not forget the fact that some employees access their corporate information using non-company devices especially public computers in airports and other public places which is even worse because of the complete lack of knowledge about the security controls of the computers used. In such cases, the privacy of our credentials to access the business systems is also at risk potentially leading to unauthorized disclosure and access to company information.

In dealing with laptop privacy, awareness is very important which means that we have to assume that although most people are trustworthy and would never look at a stranger’s computer screen, some people might actually be targeting our information. In fact, I always try my best to avoid accessing my bank account and other sensitive personal accounts from non-personal computers because I’m worried about spyware that might collect my personal information. On the other hand, even if I’m just working on projects or accessing less sensitive accounts such as my email accounts using my own computer, I’m still worried about someone noticing my ID and password as I type them on my computer screen. A couple of solutions for such cases is to sit at a location where no one can seat behind us and use a device privacy screen filter. A computer privacy filter actually prevents someone from looking at the information on your computer screen while you type or view them unless they are sitting exactly where you are, in front of the computer in order to see what you see. Screen privacy filters have additional benefits such as glare reduction and computer screen protection against scratches and fingerprints.

In summary, if you work out of coffee shops, try to secure the most private spot which does not allow others to sit right behind you. Always use trusted computers and Internet access points as much as possible,and, use a computer screen privacy filter to prevent side views. It's not always possible to use fully trusted computers for variety of reasons, but, we can always assess the risk level of the devices and locations we use to selectively access confidential information. And last but not least, avoid placing huge files containing personal information on your portable devices to reduce the risk of theft or loss, unless, you protect the computer and its data through encryption and other means.

Read about invasion of computer privacy laws.