One of the points that Edward Hasbrouck makes strongly in his book Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World is that it’s inherently dangerous to use a public computer (like in a library or Internet cafe) to do things like online banking.
Even if the activity over the network is secure — using a browser to connect to a secure banking website, for example — there’s no way of telling whether or not the computer itself is secure. For example, there could be something in place, installed by a earlier user, that logs all keystrokes to a file. So you naively type in your credit card or bank account number into a “secure” browser, but it’s also logged to a file where it’s later examined and used for nefarious purposes.
The same danger applies to anything you do with a browser that’s not public — checking your Hotmail, for example.
I’m wondering it others have tips and techniques that can mitigate this danger. I imagine, for example, that using a version of “Linux on a floppy” or “Linux on a CD” that you could use to reboot a public machine would go a large way towards averting things like keystroke logging. Any other suggestions?
This is of concern not only for nomads, of course, but for the large number of people for whom “Internet access” is “driving down to the local library.”