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article imageHow safe is your Internet cafe? Special

By Alexander Baron     Jan 20, 2014 in Internet
London - Do you ever use Internet cafés? If you do, then you may be risking your data and a lot more if one man's experience is anything to go by.
Let me say at the very start that this is a non-scientific survey; it is based on a sample of slightly over a dozen Internet cafés over a period of just over one year - from the end of 2012 to date. It is also parochial, relating primarily to Central London but also to South East London and one or two other areas. That being said, I am fairly confident one can extrapolate from this to the rest of the UK and quite likely to the rest of the world. Indeed, some countries are likely to be considerably worse. Nigeria has a particularly bad reputation; even though the legal authorities clamped down on Internet fraud there over a decade ago, it persists. That being said, if you trace the phish e-mails you receive today, you will very likely find that not a few emanate from behind the former Iron Curtain.
if you are surfing from your home computer you will - or should have - the latest anti-virus package. My personal preference is AVG; this altruistic company even offers a free version; my advice is to buy a subscription. There are other anti-virus companies out there like Norton, there are also other free anti-virus packages, but if you download one of these, do your homework first.
One would imagine that Internet cafés use anti-virus protection, imagine being the word. It is not unlikely you will find that your local caff does not use AVG, Norton or any regular package. Something I have found is computers exhibiting the message: your protection is not up to date.
Most Internet cafés in the UK appear to use a program called DeepFreeze, which claims to reboot the system and eradicate all changes and rogue programs at the end of a user's session. I am not qualified to comment on the efficacy of this program, I will say only that in my experience, this is not true. I have on occasion found more than one Trojan on a machine.
In the old days when we all used the now all but forgotten floppy disk, we were warned about the dangers of picking up a virus on another machine and transferring it to our own. That is still the case with memory sticks. If you use a memory stick in the caff, next time you use it on your own machine, scan it first. There is no little chance than a file, especially an .EXE file, will be infected. Maybe more than one.
Some Internet cafés are blocked by gaming sites, and if you try to edit Wikipedia from one, you may find that facility blocked too. The latter may be because someone using that IP address has vandalised pages or posted obscene comments, but the former is because these addresses are recognised as "dodgy". It was probably on account of a "dodgy" caff that my e-gold account was emptied the day after a $200 purchase. If you are not familiar with e-gold, it is the self-styled better money since 1996. Whether or not that was ever the case, you can be sure that right now some creep somewhere is working on a way to empty your Bitcoin account - this wonderful, untraceable virtual currency. Virtual because it does not really exist, and untraceable by you when you are robbed. If you use an Internet café for a transaction of this nature, or for a debit transaction, be aware that the risk is far greater than doing so from your home computer.
If you need to use an Internet café, there are things you can do to protect yourself against this sort of abuse. For one, you can use a disposable e-mail address, or simply an alternative one. Your ISP will probably allow you to set up alternative addresses, so if you want to send only and not read your e-mails, make sure you use one of these rather than your main one, then if the password is compromised, you will have lost nothing, and you can reset it later.
Facebook allows you to use a one-time password; doubtless innovations like this will continue to be rolled out in future. You can also set up a Yahoo! seal in a couple of minutes to ensure you are actually logging into Yahoo!
All the above applies not only to Internet cafés but to shops, hotels, indeed anywhere someone else controls the hardware.
There is no need for us to become paranoid, but you should always be aware that there are predators out there. Try not to become their prey.
More about Trojans, Phishing, Internet scams, Internet cafs
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