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Technology & Travel

When traveling outside of the US, faculty, staff and students need to be aware of risks and rules regarding information technology and security.  Risk of theft or loss of equipment is dramatically higher, as is the likelihood of damage to laptops and devices due to viruses from weak system secuity, as well as changes in voltages/electricity surges.  Laws and rights regarding privacy may also vary considerably from those in the U.S., making your researcher or personal information vulnerable. Travelers must also be conscious of export control regulations that affect technology items (laptops, encryption items, smart phones), data or information. 

The best advice is to research the country you are traveling to and understand what to expect. See the resources below and reach out with questions.

UMMS Information Security has several helpful resources:

The US government has many resources to help international travelers get prepared for their travel.  Some of these resources include:

FBI Safety and Security for the Business Traveler

US Department of State International Travel Advisories

Tech Travel Best Practices

If you do not need to use the device, leave it at home.  In some countries, your computing devices may be confiscated and out of your sight and control.  There have been instances where software was installed or enabled on devices in foreign countries without the need of the owner's permission or knowledge.  If you do not need the device, leave it at home.  In some countries, encrypted devices are not allowed into the country and will be confiscated.  If possible, consider purchasing a temporary cell phone or tablet in the foreign country to use while you are abroad.  Contact IT if interested in using a clean computer for travel.

Remove and backup senstive data. Certain countries may inspect laptops and data upon entry, so you should not store any sensitive (work or personal) data on the device you will be taking on the trip.  Backup all of your laptop files and leave the backup at home.  Remove any sensitive data from the device.  If you take data or files with you on your trip, be prepared that you may be compelled to share any data brought with you. Should you encounter any issues with governmental authorities while abroad please contact ISS or your embassy/consulate for immediate support.

Be wary of external "flash" drives/USB cables and even airport chargers: Do not use any USB drives given to you in a different country on your clean devices until the USB drive can be scanned for malware.

Refrain from accessing sensitive sites on unencrypted Internet services provided.
Never access a web site or system that stores sensitive information without the use of encryption.  In foreign countries, travelers should expect their Internet activity is being actively watched.  If you need to access a system in the U.S. that is storing sensitive information (e.g., UMMS business systems), utilize an encrypted network such as the UMMS Virtual Private Network (VPN) if not unlawful in the foreign country and access servers via secure "https" instead of "http" addresses.

Upon return from a foreign country, do not use the device until it is securely scanned and properly reviewed by necessary technical support personnel.
Due to the likelihood the computing device being infected with unwanted software or malware, the device should be scanned for viruses, malware, and any unexpected software before being used after returning home.  In some instances (e.g., after connecting to insecure networks, after visiting certain countries deemed sensitive) it may be necessary to wipe and reinstall the operating system as a precautionary countermeasure against unseen tampering or infection.  

UMMS IT personnel can scan and verify the system or device is cleaned from any malware or unwanted software.  In some instances, the recommendation might be to wipe the drive.  If the faculty or staff member accessed their accounts while in the foreign country, they should change their passwords to all systems accessed. Contact the Help Desk with questions.