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The Importance Of Logging Off

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Failure to properly log out of shared PCs is one of the most common causes of security breaches. AVG Australia and New Zealand Security Evangelist Lloyd Borrett talks with Andy Wells about how to protect yourself when using home and shared access accounts.


Andy: If you ever use a shared computer, whether it be at work, school or public places like Internet cafes, it’s important to log out when you’re finished. Lloyd, why?

Lloyd: Well, the big problem there is if you don’t log out and someone else comes along and you’re logged into all sorts of stuff, they’re now logged into that stuff. And today that stuff can be important stuff in your world. We all do a lot of things and use services up in the cloud out on the Internet, you know, God forbid, banking and shopping on line etcetera, but we log into forums, we log into social networking sites, so Facebook, Twitter, those sort of places. If you haven’t logged out, then you’ve now given access to the next person that comes along and uses that computer to all those things.

Andy: What sort of places should I be weary of making sure I’ve logged out of the computer when I’ve finished with it?

Lloyd: That would be everywhere and every place you go. So, you log out of every session that you go into. You go into Facebook; before you leave and leave the computer, log out of Facebook.

Andy: And Facebook likes to stay logged in doesn’t it?

Lloyd: Yes, Facebook really likes to stay logged in, but you shouldn’t let it. You should actively log out every time. Same for things like Twitter; same for all the other social sites you use, especially when you go online shopping, when you do online banking, you log out. And then you log out of the session on the computer.

Andy: But what about home users? Is it important to do this at home as well?

Lloyd: It’s just as important to do it at home as well. You don’t want others accessing, necessarily want others in your family accessing the accounts that you access. You don’t want friends or friends of your children coming along and using those sort of things. Ideally, everyone in the family should have their own separate accounts for the PC and they should log in and log off of those accounts; they should log in and log off of the services that they use.

Andy: Okay, so if you are the owner of the computer or the administrator of the computer, how can you set it up so people can’t just walk up and start using your account?

Lloyd: Well, you go into the control panel of Windows, you go into the user settings and you create accounts. You have your own administrator account and you have, and you put a password on it; you then create an account for yourself that is an administrator with a password on it and you create an account for every other user in the family or business that’s going to be using that computer, with a password on it. Very important – account password, because then the person has to be able to give that information to verify that they are the legitimate person of that account on that computer. And just by having all of those other accounts without the administrator privilege means that your machine is now a lot more secure than if they were all running in administrator mode.

Andy: Okay, what about for people using other people’s computers or public computers? What are a couple of the quick do’s and don’ts?

Lloyd: It’s the same thing; if you log into anything on those machines, log out. Otherwise, the next person that comes along can be suddenly pretending to be you on Twitter or you on Facebook or whatever. So, again, absolutely vital that you do that.

Andy: And what about if you’re just stepping away from a computer for just a few minutes?

Lloyd: Well, again, there you can lock the computer if you hit the Windows icon and the L key on the keyboard simultaneously that will lock the computer, take it out so that now its username and password has to be given before anyone can get back in. And you set up your screen saver so that it goes out after say five, ten minutes, so that if you walk away and forget, that the screen saver goes into that mode – locks the computer that it requires the password before you go back in.

Andy: Great. More general Internet security tips can be found at avg.com.au and avg.co.nz.

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