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Cornell University

Using Computers You Don't Own

Security steps to take when working on an untrusted computer

This article applies to: Security & Policy

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The risk of data theft is higher when you use:

  • Public kiosk computers
  • Someone else's computer

Do not access confidential data from an untrusted computer

Avoid using your NetID and password, and if possible don’t access online business or banking services. If you must do either, follow these steps as soon as you have finished.

  1. Clear the browser cookies, cache, and history.
  2. Quit the browser when you are finished.
  3. When you are working on a trusted computer again, change your NetID password.

Always question the security of both the computer and the network

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How is the computer maintained?

  • Is the software up to date?

  • Have steps been taken to ensure the computer is secure?

  • Who is managing the computer's security? Hotels, convention centers, airports, and the like generally outsource technical support services, so you are gambling on the integrity of both the institution’s staff and the company providing the service.

  • Who else has used the computer?

  • Have malicious programs been installed? When you are on a computer you don’t own, a keylogger could be recording everything you type. This means you may unknowingly expose your passwords and other sensitive information could be stolen even if you are sending them via a secure web session (i.e., https). The data will be captured before it goes out over the network.

  • Is someone watching your network traffic?


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At Cornell we value your privacy. To view
our university's privacy practices, including
information use and third parties, visit University Privacy.