Five top safety tips when using a shared computer

01 September 2015

Using shared or public computers can be convenient and is often necessary. But there are risks involved so protect your data with our five top safety tips.



Our personal computer is like a briefcase. It’s filled with information we want to keep to ourselves or share only with a selected few. It’s easy to forget this when using a shared computer or even when using a laptop, tablet or smartphone in public. 

Follow these five safety tips when using a shared computer or your own device in public to keep your private data safe.

Don’t let the computer remember you

When you log on to an email or a social media account, there is often a box that says, ‘Remember my ID on this computer’ or just ‘Remember me’ next to it. You may not have paid much attention to it at home or you may have ticked the box to make it easier to log in. 

Make it a point to look for this option and if the box is ticked, un-tick it immediately.

Many browsers today now ask you if you want them to remember your login details to save you from having to sign in to your frequently used accounts. Make sure you don’t give a browser or pop-up window permission to remember your details.

Always sign out of your accounts

We often stay signed in to our email and other frequently used accounts at home. Make a special effort to sign out of any account you log on to on a shared computer. 

If you don’t, even if you close the browser when you’re done, you will remain logged in and whether by accident or on purpose, anyone who returns to the site will have access to your private account.

Never walk away from the computer while you’re signed in

At home, walking away from your computer while you’re signed in to an account isn’t a problem. In a shared space, walking away can be a big problem. 

Sign out from any account you’re logged on to before leaving the computer even for a minute.

Avoid prying eyes

‘Shoulder surfers’ sometimes lurk in internet cafes and other public places. Shoulder surfers are people who deliberately look for computer users and watch their keystrokes as they enter their passwords. 

Make sure no one is sitting or standing within view of your keyboard when you enter your usernames and passwords.

Avoid banking and other confidential transactions

You never know if a public computer has been infected with spyware. Spyware literally spies on computers and passes the information on to the system that infected it. 

Spyware can even read your keystrokes, so when you enter your password, credit card number or other private information, you could be passing the information on to a thief. 

If at all possible, limit your banking and other confidential financial transactions to your computer at home.

If you only use shared computers occasionally, these simple measures should keep you safe. If you have to share a computer or computers regularly, take the extra precaution of changing your passwords frequently when using your personal computer (not the shared computer). 

Check out our guide to online passwords for more information.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.