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How Safe Are Campus Computers? - I Made CC Transaction

  1. Dec 13, 2014 #1
    I made a credit card transaction at my college's engineering open computer lab (I'm NOT an engineering student, but anyone can use it if they are students).

    I didn't think much about it at the time, but then started feeling a little weird about it later on today. I figured in the back of my mind that the university probably updates and protects these computers as well as anyone. I always see those nightly "computers will be shutting down and updating" messages that forces us off the PCs for a while for maintenance. I figured they'd probably be just as safe is not safer than my home PC. But now I'm having some regrets, since I'm not very knowledgeable about computers.

    Was my assumption right? How safe are college computers and should I block my credit card to be safe?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    You should always err on the side of caution. Being a public computer means you don't know what's really on it. It could've been infected with malware not detectable by virus protection yet.

    The university has no obligation to protect the computer although I'm sure they do because they need to keep their network operating and their staff protected from threats.

    However like all institutions they may not go far enough in doing so until they get hacked big time and become more security conscious.

    Your best bet is to go back to that computer and erase the browser history, saved passwords... If you can and then to contact your credit card company to let them know what you did. They will monitor your account more carefully and might even issue you a new card. You could also have a monitoring service like experian watch your credit history which is good anytime.
  4. Dec 14, 2014 #3
    If it's a public-computer it should be in a "kiosk mode" : once you close the browser and log off it should "forget" everything , ( i.e. no persistence from one user to the next ).
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2014
  5. Dec 16, 2014 #4
    One could say the same about a home computer.
  6. Dec 16, 2014 #5
    It depends a lot on how the computer you used is being networked inside your university, especially in your lab room. Usually library computers are networked into domains with specific credentials provided to be used by staff and students; its running server in school is well-protected with firewalls and AV engines. Stealing your credentials to view your cached data and more may be more common. In a lab room, computers are less strictly protected and thus become more susceptible to virus or malicious code infection and attacks. Virus code can be attached to whatever files. So a trusted AV engine is needed to protect your computer in real time mode. In school if you pay attention a little, I think you'll probably see posters or warning stickies in i.e library's wall that forbid students to make any online purchases using school computers.
    Anyway, if you inadvertently made a bad decision like this next time somewhere, I suggest you to first "shut up" :DD and monitor your bank account changes to quickly take appropriate action if an illegal matter occurs. You made this question in a public forum, which also means to announce everyone your previous bad commitment.
  7. Dec 18, 2014 #6
    You are not too knowledgeable for sure. But this is the only thing I would suggest you to learn anyway.

    2009 and not 100% nice to me but still a good read.

    The 2 answers I "liked" above deserve your attention. But no kiosk mode or virtual anti-conceptional will get close to a sleek Linux distribution. Unless it is a card that is only related to a small fraction of your wealth (this in absolute values obviously varies from one person to another), I suggest learning some stuff before doing this again.

    Disclaimer: I am not trying a PC x Linux x Mac war, just suggesting not using Windows at all for internet banking.
  8. Dec 19, 2014 #7
    I have never known a college computer system open to students that hadn't been hacked.

    On the hopeful side, they are usually not hacked for the purpose of stealing financial information from students - since students are known for having shallow pockets. So, for example, if your password was grabbed by a keystroke logger, it probably ended up in the hands of someone who doesn't care.
  9. Dec 19, 2014 #8
    Making a keylogger run in Windows is really easy.

    Still, if he typed the URL manually (or at least part of it), the keylogger output parser should retrieve it automatically and allow whoever has it to have some fun.
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