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The Computer on a Stick


I came across a pretty disturbing research report a little while ago. And if you spend ever work on a computer that’s not your primary system, you should take note. The report went like this:

A network security company called Scanit spent some time looking at computers designated for public use in airport departure lounges. According to the report they found on those computers documents and emails that could theoretically bring some global companies to their knees.

The research, which you can read about in a press release from Scanit here, found a whole range of issues with public computers.

Now you might think that no high flying executive would be stupid enough to sit at a public computer and save a document to its desktop that outlines the latest multi-million dollar deal, complete with profit margins and lowest bid values. And then leave it there. But remarkably, Scanit claims to have found just this type of document.

But even if the executive is not that stupid, he might still send that document by email using the copy of Outlook Express present on the public access computer. He might delete the copy saved to the desktop, but does he know to empty the recycle bin? Does he realise that a copy is left in the Outlook Express ‘Sent Items’ folder for anyone with an ounce of PC know-how to retrieve?

Now suppose you are sitting reading this and thinking, “Well, I’m safe as I never save or create documents on public access computers. I only ever do web surfing and web mail.” But even you, dear reader, might not be as safe as you think.

The Scanit CEO was in on the research, and one day as he was playing patience on a computer in an airport lounge he discovered it was running a keylogger and sending a record of keystrokes to a Hotmail account every 15 minutes. Oops, there goes your email login, your credit card number, the login information for your online banking...

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