how to:How To Protect Your Online Security in Cyber Cafes
Cyber cafés allow visitors affordable and quick access to the Internet. They can be a fantastic means of communication and research for those who do not own computers or are traveling. There are certain risks, however, in using a public computer or wireless network for personal matters: encrypted connections cannot always be achieved, preset firewalls may be weak, and it is hard to know who is monitoring your activity. The following steps can help keep sensitive data safe, even in the public setting of a cyber café or public Wi-fi hotspot.
Before even entering a cyber cafe, if using your laptop, be sure to password-protect it first! If you are not using your laptop and are using a public computer, never do anything too private or sensitive. Even if you are able to install things on it, you never know whether there is some sort of malware running on it.
Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for anyone who might be observing your computer screen and/or keyboard. If you’ve brought your personal laptop, use a security cable to anchor your laptop to a heavy or immovable object. Never leave your laptop, personal belongings, or any sensitive information unattended for any amount of time. It is inadvisable even to ask a stranger to “keep an eye” on your things for a minute. Cybersecurity is important, but physical security is the first step.
Choose your Internet browser carefully. On a personal computer, take the time to download browsers, patches, and add-ons while at home on a secure, private connection. A great place to start is the HTTPS Everywhere extension for Chrome and Firefox, which is simple to install and protects users even on otherwise insecure sites. If you are on a public computer, however, you may have no choice: security settings often prevent installation by guest users. If possible, use Google Chrome in Incognito Mode, as many reports claim it is the least vulnerable to hacking, or Firefox with appropriate add-ons such as Stealther, Adbock Plus, NoScript, and Convergence.io. Avoid Internet Explorer; as the most commonly used browser, it is also the most commonly attacked browser.
No matter which Internet browser you use, make sure to download the latest patches as soon as possible. These patches are the developers’ response to the newest viral threats.
Choose the most secure Internet connection. In a café or on a public computer, you may be asked to sign in or enter a password. This is for billing purposes and does not mean your connection is secure. If a Wi-fi hotspot pops up, be aware that unless it requires a WPA/WPA2 (not WEP) password, it is not secure; your actions online and the contents of your computer could be vulnerable. If you are using a personal mobile hotspot or laptop stick, protect it with a WPA2 password, as this is most secure.
Once connected to the Internet, browse consciously and think before you click. If you were unable to connect to a WPA/WPA2, the information you send and receive is not encrypted, so you should try to visit only those sites that use encryption. Encrypted sites’ addresses begin with “https” and will display a clickable padlock symbol in the web address bar or at the top/bottom of the page. You can download plugins that will force all sites to use encryption and programs that will anonymize surfing.
Also, be aware of misleading links and fraudulent sites. If you are ever unsure, hover your mouse over a link before clicking. The real address of where the link will take you will appear. Malware can and will manifest itself as anything: a $10000 prize, an IM from a friend, a message from your bank, a news article. If the real address does not match up or is a strange string of numbers, do not click. Do not open emails from unfamiliar senders, especially if they have URGENT, IMPORTANT, or WINNER in the subject line.
Sites will even fake the https and the lock symbol. If either or those disappear at any time, know that you are no longer encrypted and may be on a fraudulent site.
Create a free Google mail account separate from those that you use for business and personal matters. Give it a random name and password. Use it anytime a website requires one, but attach as little person information to it as possible. This will help keep spam—which accounted for 80% of all messages in February 2011—out of your way.
Make your passwords random, lengthy, and difficult. Never use your name, your nickname, your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name, your social security number, or your address. Though it may be hard to remember, a string of random numbers, capitals, lowercase letters, and symbols is safest. Use entirely different passwords for each of your different logins. Only write down a password if you must; never store it with your computer. Change your passwords at least every three months, or at the first sign of hacking.
When you are finished browsing, log out of any sites you logged into. Double-check the browser’s history, cookies, and cache. Delete anything you find there - remember here that deleting something does not necessarily mean it has been deleted. Close all tabs and windows. Quit the browser. Log out of the computer.