Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Public places and ‘screen snooping’

Let me ask you a question: if you were on a long flight, were restless and bored, and the person in the seat next to you took out a laptop and fired it up, would you peek at their screen? Be honest now. Would you? Of course you would.
I read somewhere that 45% of travelers answered “yes” to that question in a survey. That strikes me as a low number (and tells me more about how people answer surveys than anything else). I mean.. what else is there to look at?

The fact is, in part thanks to the availability of WiFi and public “hotspots”, more and more people are becoming “road warriors” and take their notebook computers with them when they travel. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, people are using computers out in public — where prying eyes can see. You will see people on computers at the library, at Starbucks, and on planes.

This raises some security issues, and some privacy issues. “Shoulder surfing” and “screen snooping” can reveal things about yourself that it might not be wise to reveal. Your email address for example.
There are several security factors to consider when using public WiFi, which I will discuss in a future article(s), such as packet capture, man-in-the-middle, and rogue access points, but today I just want to discuss your privacy.

Tip of the day: Keep your screen private. If you are like me, you really don’t want strangers reading your computer screen. If you are careless enough, someone could watch you and learn things that would allow them to steal your identity. A business competitor could steal company secrets (a brief aside: corporate information loss damages range in the billions each year, though screen snooping is not the usual method for loss). Besides, my “stuff” is my stuff.

If you do any public computing, in any sort of public place, I highly recommend you invest in a privacy screen filter. These are special plastic sheets that fit over your screen and only allow viewing from directly in front of the screen. They work sort of like polarizing lenses, or perhaps a slatted window shade is a better example, so that people (eyes) off to the side will only see black. This narrowness of view works well enough that your airplane seatmate will be unable to see a thing.

You might think these privacy filters would reduce your ability to see your screen, or reduce its brightness, but by reducing glare they actually seem to clarify your view. If you don’t like snoops, and want to thwart cyber-criminals, you’ll want one of these screens. The one I recommend is made by 3M.

Today’s free link: I download large files frequently enough that I find a download manager tool invaluable. The one I use is Free Download Manager. From site: “FDM accelerates downloads by splitting files into sections and then downloading them simultaneously. As a result download speed increases up to 600%, or even more! FDM can also resume broken downloads so you needn`t start downloading from the beginning after casual interruption.”

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 9, 2007 - Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, privacy, security, shopping for, tech

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