Cyber safety guidelines
Just as you would protect your physical safety while abroad, please be aware of your digital safety as well.
Before you travel
- Use temporary devices. If you have the means, taking a temporary device (such as a cheap, disposable, pre-paid device) is the surest way to keep your personal or university devices safe. Consider borrowing a laptop or tablet from the University’s International Loaner Laptop program. Use of loaner laptops is not mandatory except to destinations considered to be high cybersecurity risks, such as China, Hong Kong, Russia and Iran.
- Back up data. Back up your personal electronic files and store them in a safe place in the United States.
- Remove sensitive data. Only take the data you need for the trip. Remove apps you don’t need and minimize the amount of personal data on the phone (contact lists, credit card information, personally identifiable information).
- Use strong passwords. Change passwords before leaving. They should not match any other passwords you have used in the past.
- Update antivirus. Ensure antivirus and operating system software is up-to-date.
- Encrypt all devices. Making sure your devices are password protected is a great start. Encrypting your data takes protection a step further. It makes the information unreadable and useless, even if somehow a hacker gets through the lock screen.
While you are traveling
Be vigilant about the possession and use of your equipment and information. Don’t assume it’s safe. Criminals may be visible or invisible.
- Don't expect privacy. In most countries, you do not expect privacy. Be alert at all times to this reality.
- Turn off your devices. Power off devices or put them in airplane mode when not in use.
- Keep electronics with you. Keep your devices close to airports, hotels, and restaurants. Although hotel safes are an option, consider them unsecured.
- Disable network protocols. Be sure to disable all unnecessary network protocols (e.g., WiFi, Bluetooth, infrared, etc.) that can be a gateway into your device.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Other eyes can take information from you by looking at your devices.
- Use a privacy screen. Consider buying and using a privacy screen on your laptop in public areas.
- Prepare for worst-case scenarios. Presume your device will be confiscated and searched at your port of entry.
- Beware of local networks. Connecting to local networks while abroad may expose your device to malware.
- Avoid using public devices. Using cyber cafes to log into services like Facebook, Twitter, or your bank website may leave a trail of information that others could exploit.
- Don't use public charging ports. Avoid using public USB charging ports commonly found in airports. They can be used to transfer malware to your device. Always use a charging plug and wall outlet.
- Clear your internet browser. Clearing your browser after each use includes deleting history files, caches, cookies, and temporary internet files.
- Report device theft promptly. If your device is stolen, report it immediately to the local US Embassy or Consulate;
Upon your return
Devices used abroad can more easily become compromised. Upon returning to the United States, consider the following best practices:
- Change the passwords of your devices.
- Contact your local IT department before reconnecting those devices to a university network or resources.