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Can My Computer Be Hacked if I’m Offline at an Internet Café?


Can anyone hack my computer if I’m offline in an internet café?

The practical answer is no. It’s not very likely.

However, the real answer might be yes, and it actually depends on a number of things.

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First, are you really offline?

What do you mean by offline?

Simply choosing offline (as you can do in browsers or email programs) does not take your computer offline; it only stops those applications from trying to access the internet. The biggest risk is simply that you’re not offline when you think you are.

Disable the wireless adapter

The most effective approach is to disable the wireless adapter in your computer.

Some laptops even have a physical switch that you can use to do exactly that. Use it. That removes the network from the equation.

Hacker's Hand Turn off Bluetooth

Does your computer have Bluetooth? Consider disabling that as well. It’s not at all common, but it is another wireless protocol and it could be vulnerable to short-range access.

Disable the wireless keyboard

You’re probably not use one of these if you have a laptop, but some wireless keyboard adapters have fundamentally poor security. And they could be listened on or worse… typed at without you realizing it.

Physical security

Someone could be looking over your shoulder as you type sensitive information, like your password or account information. Heck, I suppose even surveillance cameras in the café could be used for that.

And of course, don’t leave your computer unattended. Even if it’s still there after you get back, a hacker could have installed something.

To be clear, I truly believe that disabling the Wi-Fi adapter is more than enough for most situations. That’s the only way you’re really offline. The problem here is that there’s no absolute yes or no to the question because we also need to look at these less common (albeit somewhat paranoid) scenarios.

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Posted: October 24, 2013 in: Hacks, Hacking and Hacked Accounts
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.

4 comments on “Can My Computer Be Hacked if I’m Offline at an Internet Café?”

  1. Dear Leo,
    I am using a laptop with no internet connection.Except i use internet from my phone and connect it to my laptop once a month or so.I turned off my bluetooth after reading your page.My question is that I retieved some long lost files from my laptop and when I did that I was able to retrieve so many photos of people i never met and also few videos.
    I have no idea how those photos and videos ended up in my lapop because I’m the only one who uses it.Do you think someone mght have hacked my laptop??..what should i do to protect my files???..PLEASE REPLY…
    Thank you

  2. Someone has been hacking my cell phone and boyfriends phone and has been harrassing us. It is happening at the internet cafe in mentone ca. What do i do report it to the police

  3. Are airgap malware is real? How can penteration testing if exist and can move mouse or only keystroke? How can detect this type of malware if exist
    Thank you


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