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Are Internet Kiosks Safe to Use?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Internet kiosks are public terminals that connect to the World Wide Web. For a fixed fee, it is possible to use a kiosk to connect with the Internet and perform tasks such as conduct searches, read and send email, make a purchase, or surf the Internet. These electronic kiosks are often found in public settings such as airports, hotel lobbies, visitors centers, and other even some restaurants.

One of the major concerns about Internet kiosks is the potential for hackers and others to access a user’s proprietary information during an active session. In terms of hacking, it is sometimes possible for a hacker to download spyware onto the hard drive of kiosk computers that will then capture and send information harvested from the activities conducted using the kiosk hardware and software. This harvesting activity would not be noticeable by the end user. However, sophisticated software can capture access codes, credit card information, and other data that can then be used by the hacker or sold to the highest bidder.

Another possible danger with Internet kiosks is the installation of Internet client software that monitors keystrokes. Essentially, this type of software captures each keystroke made during an active session. If an end user keys in a credit card number or enters and email address and pass code of some type, the keystroke logging is documented and the information forwarded to the owner of the hacking software.

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In order to combat security issues, many operators of Internet kiosks take steps to secure each unit in operation. For example, the owner of a cyber café is likely to make sure that each station in the café is protected with both antispyware and antivirus protection that is kept up to date. The operator may also utilize software and browser features that either signal the end user that a site is not secure or block access to the site altogether. Today, there are several kiosk software packages that include several tools to identify and neutralize all types of malware immediately. While this may seem like an inconvenience for users, it in fact helps to make the use of Internet kiosks safe and secure.

Before using any web kiosks, it is a good idea to make sure the system is safe. Generally, there are some sort of separators or panels on each side of the kiosk to minimize the ability of people to look over the shoulder of the user and capture data visually. In addition, it is a good idea to confirm there is software loaded on the system to deal with spyware and other forms of malware in a real time fashion. This is true whether or not the unit is a fully functional video kiosk, a simple info kiosk, an email kiosk or a more robust intermedia kiosk.

In most cases, the operator of the kiosk will be happy to make users aware of what safety precautions have been taken. This helps them to protect their customers as well as minimize their own liability.

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Discuss this Article

bythewell
Post 3

@indigomoth - Wow, I've never even thought about these kinds of precautions. I usually just hop onto computer kiosks as necessary and use them to do everything I would normally do at my own computer.

Of course, I hardly ever have to use them these days anyway, because I generally have my tablet with me, or my smartphone, but I guess if a hacker could get into the kiosk they could possibly get into the wifi as well.

indigomoth
Post 2

@Fa5t3r - That's not always possible though. I travel a lot and often there is no other option except to use a public internet kiosk. And I know they aren't always safe. But I've tried to set it up so that anything that might happen isn't going to bankrupt me.

For one thing, I always tell my bank when I'm going to be traveling, so they will know to double check any strange withdrawals. I also use as my primary account a bank that has the option to have a code transmitted to your phone every time you want to sign in. So, even if a hacker managed to get my password, they still wouldn't be able to get into my account without my phone.

Fa5t3r
Post 1

I just would not ever use a self service kiosk to access anything where I cared about the information involved. I don't understand all of the methods that a hacker could use to get my information, but I do know that they aren't going to be able to get it if I don't sign into anything.

I also make sure that if I am going to sign into something, it has a different password from my bank accounts and my work email.

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