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What are the risks of logging in from a shared computer? What about on a shared network, but on a personal laptop?

I have, in many cases, wanted to log in from a shared computer or shared network, but decided not to given the possible risks.

Some risks that have come to mind are:

  • If someone else from that network/computer decides to upvote one of your posts, it might look like sockpuppetry
  • If spam from that network/computer has been sent, and you login, it might be suspected that you are responsible for it
  • If that computer or network has a post ban or gets one in the future, your account might also get the ban

Am I being too careful? Are these possible risks things I should watch out for? Are there other risks I should watch out for not listed above? Should I just avoid logging in on a shared computer? Would it be significantly safer if it were on a shared network, but on a personal computer?

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Am I being too careful?

Probably not. Yahoo has an article: "Using Shared Computers" which advises:

  1. Use an on-demand password (I don't think we have that, but you can use Login via Google).

  2. Do not check the "Keep me signed in" box

  3. Never leave a computer unattended while you are signed in (refill or relief)

  4. Always sign out completely

  5. Clear the browsing data

  6. Watch for "shoulder surfers" (and CCTV)

  7. Avoid confidential transactions

  8. Be wary of spyware

  9. Never save passwords, and change them often!

When I use login through Google and go out where WiFi is shared sometimes SE has a hiccup and I need to reload the webpage, the shared WiFi provider I use is trustworthy (it's not "Joe's Coffee Shop") and no doubt someone has done something over the years through that IP address - but not me.

If it's worth the risk of a ban, and a few hours of emails to dig your way out then you can take risks and save money. It's a cost versus risk tradeoff.

Are these possible risks things I should watch out for (definitely the last one)?

Many things at SE sites are IP address based, one example is - "Questions from IP addresses or accounts with a history of extremely poor questions will no longer be accepted".

Are there other risks I should watch out for not listed above?

Here are some problems that have happened here:

I've kept the list short and only listed things that are repaired. Understand that the security software has to 'look for things' and if things come up it's suspicious. You want to avoid that.

Short and easy: Use Google's 2-Step Verification. Use your own phone, tablet or laptop over WiFi instead of a computer supplied by an Internet Cafe. Login to SE via Google.

It's not a 100% guarantee, but neither is logging in from home.

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Well, you are your account. If anything fishy happens, you're liable. You might find yourself suspended, cause your account that was in good standing ended up posting random vulgarities cause someone thought it was funny.

I guess the critical question is how much you trust the machine

If you're logged in from a third party - it might compromise their login too.

At the end of the day - if you have an account with some history that's been productive, we'll act to try to help you - suspending the account until you're aware what's happening, clearing sessions and so on. On the other other hand, if you're going to leave your keys under the welcome mat, you really are kinda at fault for the hobo on your sofa.

If someone else from that network/computer decides to upvote one of your posts, it might look like sockpuppetry

That's not sufficient - there's probably other factors, and as a mod, I'd look at patterns of votes and probably call in a CM to take a look. A single upvote is not that likely to bother anyone.

If spam from that network/computer has been sent, and you login, it might be suspected that you are responsible for it

You have bigger problems. Your network is compromised.

Maniacally yelling cartoon man with a flamethrower

Might be a good way to deal with your network.

SE however will likely just block that IP and have other means - its unlikely the specific account will be affected otherwise.

If that computer or network has a post ban or gets one in the future, your account might also get the ban

Possibly not, unless we suspect you of being a sock. Chances are some human will be reviewing the process, as opposed to an auto ban.

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