Trusted computer issues are usually raised when using public computers, especially for internet access and sensitive online transactions. There are primarily two major security risk areas involved when using public computers; the computer and its physical environment. Sometimes, the computer itself may not be trusted due to installed spying software and other times the environment where the computer is located might be bugged to collect information. In a worst case scenario, both the computer and its environment might be working hand in hand to monitor your every move and collect all your personal information.
When I travel for business or pleasure, one of the first things I do either before or after my travel is to look for some kind of Internet access. Typically, when I travel for business, I carry my own laptop; however, I don’t always carry a computer when I travel for pleasure for many risk factors which I discuss in depth in other articles. Even when I carry my own laptop, there have been times when the hotel’s internet access points were down and I could not use my computer for internet access, thus, forcing me to hit the streets in search of an internet café which are less expensive and more fun than the business centers of hotels. Although I get very nervous using a public computer in an internet café in a foreign country, sometimes, I don’t have any other choice due to either an uncooperative computer or unavailable internet access. However, as I said, two major security issues bother me when I’m not using a trusted computer. By the word trusted, I mean a computer clear of any malicious software logging my keystrokes or predatory eyes watching over the computer keyboard and screen.
There are many sophisticated software today that can be installed on a computer to spy on keystrokes and steal passwords, or monitor your every move on the internet. A less sophisticated approach would be to install cameras around the computer to closely watch the entered passwords or computer screen to gather information. Either way, if you are not dealing with a trusted computer, you have to worry about these risks which are not very uncommon. Some time ago, it was reported that cameras were installed around gas station ATMs to gain access to a user’s password and use it to withdraw cash with counterfeit cards.
In conclusion, when accessing the internet especially when using online banking to pay bills, always attempt to use a trusted computer such as your office or home computer. When using public computers for highly sensitive transactions, consider the trust level you have with the facility which provides Internet access. There are public computers that are more trustworthy than others and as such are less likely to have installed spyware and predatory eyes to spy on your passwords and gain unauthorized access to your accounts and other sensitive information. For example, a library computer or a professional association computer is less likely to have malicious software or have predatory cameras than an Internet café you just discovered while traveling.
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