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using public computers or your own pc away - North Ayrshire Council



Safe use of public computers

What is ‘Public’?

So what actually is a public computer?

This would be a computer sited in a public place, such as an Internet Café,
airport lounge, hotel business suite or library would be categorised as such.
However, computers that are freely accessible by one or more people in
places such as academic institutions, at work or in a house share situation
could also be considered a public computer.

Should I use these ‘Public’ computers to purchase online?

This decision is obviously your own to make; however please ensure you are
aware of what the risks are before making your decision and then take some
precautions to keep your details safe.

In reality, shopping online using a public computer in a truly public place, such
as an Internet café or airport lounge does carry a few risks. The less familiar
you are with the computer and its security, the riskier it is for you. It is
advisable to only purchase online using a public computer if absolutely

Information can be retained on Public computers!

When you type in details to a computer, sometimes it will store information
that has been typed into the internet, you may have heard the term 'cookies',
it is these cookies that hold and retain the information.

Sometimes a computer will pop up a window asking if you'd like it to
remember details that have been entered - this is often known as 'autofill'.
This can include usernames and passwords that have recently been typed in,
and this sort of feature is designed really for when you repeatedly access or
log into specific pages on your personal/private computer. Understandably,
this is not a feature that you want to use on a public computer.

Protecting Your Details

Before considering any sort of online purchase from a public computer, you
should check that the computer is running a firewall (like a security wall
protecting the computer), and a virus checker. If you can't see any icons on
the desktop that give you an idea, you are perfectly within your rights to ask
the company or owner of the computer.

It is often easy to disable the autofill feature, by simply pressing 'No' when it
asks you if you want it to remember your details for future use will keep your
details hidden. Occasionally when required to log into a website, there will be


a small box that you can check so that your details will be stored. When using
a public computer the solution is simple - never check this box.

The most common way to disable cookies that capture and store information
from your browser, is to go to the Options menu in your browser window, and
then select the privacy tab where you can uncheck the appropriate box. This
may vary a little from computer to computer.

If using your computer within an educational institution or workplace, you may
be allotted your own work space on the workplace, college or university
network server. This is designed to keep your documents and passwords
safe, away from other users. You should always properly log in and out of
these areas, especially if you are intending to make an online purchase, or
when entering or accessing any sensitive important information. Always make
sure that you choose a 'strong' password that is unique and unlikely to be
guessed - using birth dates is one example of a bad password.

What about North Ayrshire Council libraries?

The Council endeavours to protect its library computing environment and
users of library facilities however these machines are in a public place and
used for a wide variety of reasons. Machines are configured to not retain any
of your personal information but standard precautions should still be taken as
you are in a public place; keep your information secure and don’t leave your
credit card or other details lying around.

If Necessary!

If you are adamant that you'd like to shop online using a public computer,
including within a library, make sure that you can spot the indicators of a safe,
trustworthy website that uses encryption software over a secure server. When
making a payment, you should opt to use a credit card as your method of
payment, particularly if the payment is over £100, as this means you will be
insured. It also means that any potential thief or hacker will not have access to
your personal current account. It is fairly common practice for companies that
sell their products online to contact the credit card owner in case of a
particularly large purchase, to make sure the sale is bona fide.

You should also make sure that your credit card is not physically visible to any
other users in the room with you. Before entering any personal details onto a
website, always check that no one can see the details being entered onto the
screen, and also check that cookies and autofill are disabled.

To ensure that the transfer of funds from your card to the pay merchant or
website owner is secure, a small padlock symbol should appear in the bottom
right hand window of your browser. The website address should also start
with https://, which again indicates a secure server.


Once you have entered all your details and made the payment, go back and
double check that your details have not been captured, and are not
automatically filling themselves in. Also make a print out of your order
confirmation to keep - by law you should receive a confirmation and this
usually arrives in the form of an email almost immediately after the transaction
has been completed.


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