University of Wisconsin–Madison
Icon of a paper with a globe, airplane, and lock

Safe computing when traveling abroad

 5 minutes to read | Last updated January 26, 2016

Is there a trip abroad in your future? Read this to find out while preparing to leave, when out of the country and upon your return how to keep your accounts, devices and data safe.

Getting prepared

  • Reserve a rental laptop or cell phone

    Consider taking a rental device rather than your personal equipment.  This will limit the amount of data at risk should your laptop or phone be lost, stolen or searched. PC and Macintosh laptops with appropriate up-to-date security protections are available for checkout from DoIT.  Cell phones are also available.  Devices available for checkout is limited so reserve as soon as you can.

  • Prepare your laptop/tablet for travel

    If you can not take a loaner device, sanitize your device by backing up the information and remove all information not needed during your travels.  Ensure up-to-date protections for anti-malware, security patching and firewalls.

  • Minimize the information you take with you

    Take the minimum amount of information needed for your travel.  Do not take sensitive information (electronic or printed) with you as you travel. Evaluate the sensitivity of the information you are considering taking by knowing in many countries/cultures there is no expectation of privacy. Backup all information you do take and leave the backup at work.  Remove all external storage media (e.g. CDs, USBs, etc.) from the computer before you travel.

  • Review university and personal passwords

    Do not use the same login credentials for university and personal business. Where possible, ensure passwords for sensitive enterprise systems (e.g ISIS, HR, etc) are not the same as self-service passwords (e.g. email, calendar, myuw, etc.). Make any necessary password changes warranted by this review, particularly for systems you will be accessing while abroad.

  • Familiarize yourself with local laws and security

    Visit the U.S. State Department’s web site to obtain information about the safety and security of the country you are visiting and to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

During your stay

Upon your return

  • Clean and/or rebuild all electronic devices

    Return the loaner laptop to DoIT for analysis and cleaning.  If you took your personal computer, we highly recommend that the laptop is analyzed for malware, unauthorized access and if necessary re-built before next use.  DoIT can assist in this effort.

  • Change passwords

    Consider changing passwords for all systems you accessed while traveling.

Get help

The DoIT Help Desk can also answer any questions you have, or connect you with the right group.

Email the help desk