Staying Safe In An Internet Cafe

Step 1

Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for anyone who might be observing your computer. 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.

Step 2.

Password-protect your laptop even before entering an internet cafe. If you using a public computer instead, never perform any tasks that are too private. Be careful when downloading files, because they may contain malware which can harm your computer.

Step 3.

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 possible, use Google Chrome in Incognito Mode, because it is the least vulnerable to hacking, or Firefox with appropriate add-ons such as Stealther, Adblock Plus, NoScript, and Convergence.io. Avoid Internet Explorer; as the most commonly used, and most commonly attacked, browser.

Tip!

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.

Tip!

Check your privacy settings. Block all cookies, pop-ups, and Javascript. Disable search saving, login information storage, and location tracking. These will minimize your electronic footprint.

Step 4.

Choose the most secure Internet connection. Unless it requires a WPA/WPA2 (not WEP) password, the wi-fi hotspot is not secure. If you are using a personal mobile hotspot or laptop stick, protect it with a WPA2 password, as this is most secure.

Step 5.

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 visit only encrypted sites. Encrypted site 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.

Tip!

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 out of your way.

Tip!

Make your passwords random, lengthy, and difficult. 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. Change your passwords at least every three months, or at the first sign of hacking.

Step 6.

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.