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Security away from home

Question : I'm concerned about a trip I'll be on this coming school holiday. I won't carry a laptop and was planning to pay my bills online, either at friends' homes or from cybercafes. But I'm worried that one of those computers will hide a keystroke-logging program. Any advice?

Answer : That's an excellent point -- how do you know a strange computer will be safe? Usually, you can't.

Keystroke-logging programs, which record every tap of the keyboard to capture such data as your passwords, hide themselves quite well. And installing and running a spyware scanner on every new cybercafe computer isn't too practical.

Using a friend's computer is no guarantee of safety, either, unless you know this person's computing hygiene exceptionally well. (That said, if your friend runs Mac OS X or Linux, the odds of trouble are far lower than if Windows is used.)

The smarter option is to set up automatic bill payments in advance. You can usually let your credit card issuers and utilities deduct each month's total from a designated bank account, and most banks allow you to schedule online bill payments in advance.

Either way, you get the added benefit of not having to worry about your bills while you're on vacation.


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