Many of us have come to take traveling with our computers and mobile devices for granted. However, there are circumstances that should give you second thoughts about how to travel with your technology. While the risk will vary depending on where you are going or from where you are returning, here are some simple, common sense security steps we strongly suggest you consider when planning to travel abroad or even domestically.
- Make sure to use devices in areas where they are allowed.
- If you can do without the device, don’t take it.
- Don’t put information on your devices that you don’t need. Consider what the consequences would be if your data were stolen.
- Back up all of your devices before you leave and leave the back ups at home or in the cloud.
- Consider getting an inexpensive or disposable device to use such as a "burner phone" (typically a pre-paid device).
- There are also less expensive tablets and computers on the market that would provide you with functionality upon arrival and wouldn’t necessitate you carrying a more costly college-owned or personal device. In the event that one of these items is stolen, you won't be broken-hearted about it.
- Disable access to your device via a fingerprint reader. Many smartphones and even some computers use this for unlocking your device quickly. Warrants can be used to compel you to unlock your cell phone with a finger print. However, because of your right to remain silent, it is far more difficult to require you to share your passcode.
- Make sure all of your mobile devices are passcode protected.
- If you use a password management application such as iPassword or LastPass, remove it from your mobile devices. You can store a copy of your password vault created with these apps up in the cloud, such as in Box.
- Encrypt all of your devices, even if you are not traveling. More information on how to do this can be found at the Online Security webpage.
- Remove all social media applications from your mobile devices. You can restore them later.
- Avoid doing anything that requires you to log in unless you are absolutely certain that you're on a secure network.
- Download up-to-date antivirus protection, spyware protection, OS security patches, and a personal firewall.
- Don’t leave electronic devices unattended. If you have to stow them, remove the battery and the SIM card and keep them with you.
- Don’t use thumb drives given to you. Don’t use your own thumb drive on a computer you don’t own. If you have to do so anyway, assume that you have been compromised and have the device examined as soon as you can.
- Don’t use the “remember me” feature on websites.
- Don’t recharge your mobile device at “free” USB recharging stations in an airport or elsewhere. Use your vendor-provided USB plug and a public outlet instead.
- Read "Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data On Your Devices and In the Cloud"
Many of these suggestions have been compiled from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center website and from this insightful article featured in the New York Times, both of which are great resources for further reading.
Hopefully, using these tips can help you to travel safely!