What about people who use PCs in public places? Long Beach’s Boccia says a lot depends on what the PC will let you do which you might be able to determine only by trial and error. Boccia states, “Unfortunately, there is no visual cue to alert the user of what type of security the machine is using, unless the person is pretty tech-savvy and knows what to look for.”

Tips for using public PCs include:

- Check how the PC is set up. What operating system is it using? (XP is obviously better for the reasons given above.) It shouldn’t let you poke around in the system settings such as the control panel and user accounts. Ironically, the less you can do on the PC, the better it’s well-locked down.

You might even look behind the machine for any keylogger devices attached to the keyboard cable, where it plugs into the PC. For more on keyloggers, read the Bright Hub article, “Risky business, using kiosk computers.”

- Avoid tasks such as online banking and credit card purchases that might leave sensitive information behind. But if you must do so, uncheck any box offering to remember your information and change your passwords as soon as you are on a PC you know is secure.

- If you have access to browser options that let you clear the cache and wipe out cookies, you should use them. The best systems warn you that they will clear stored information such as cookies when you exit.

- If you need to save a document, it’s up to you to bring a flash drive to store it on or e-mail it to yourself and then delete it from the public PC. Be sure to empty Windows Trash.

Take similar precautions when using public Wi-Fi networks. For example, log into a user account without administrative rights when browsing on a public Wi-Fi network, Boccia says. “You don’t need admin rights just to browse the Web, create a document, and do e-mail, especially at a public wireless hotspot (or as I call it, surfing with sharks).”

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