Security in the News

Tamara Bahr Blog

Spotlight on Travel Security

While you may think you don’t have anything to hide, your personal privacy and protecting institutional data are important considerations when planning to travel for leisure or work. In this climate of heightened border security, where device searches at the border are prominent in the news, we thought this would be a good opportunity to visit some of the ways in which you can travel more securely.

Our smartphones and other electronic devices store detailed accounts of our conversations, professional lives, whereabouts, and web-browsing habits. They paint a far more detailed picture of our private lives than, say, a piece of luggage.

Tips for maintaining privacy and securing your devices at border crossings and while you are away

Do border agents have the right to search or seize your device? Can they require you to provide passwords to your various social media accounts or apps? You betcha! The laws are fairly grey and yes, you can say “no” to any request to search your devices at the border, but of course, border security can always turn you away for non-compliance.

• Bring a clean device
Is it possible to take a loaner device? If so, this is an opportunity to bring only data that you require for work while travelling and the device can be wiped upon return.
• Travel with reduced information
Keep phone numbers, email addresses, and contacts to a minimum. An example of contacts you may not want to be easily searched: Research study participants…
• Enable security features on your device Two factor authentication. Strong passwords. Encrypted storage. Save your data, reset to factory defaults, and restore your backup when you return.
• Review your email or network connected file storage
When you login to your mobile device, your email is generally viewable to a border agent. Consider what information is available in your inbox, sent mail, or other folders. If you have files available (via Sharepoint for example), review access to that content.
• Use a VPN to access sensitive information
Web-based VPN services can be used to access sensitive information while travelling (assuming the country doesn’t block such service). Using a web-based VPN rather than a standard client-based VPN may reduce the risk of a border agent asking you to activate it.

There is no dearth of information on how to protect your privacy and data while travelling and the points above are not exhaustive. But,they do offer a few handy suggestions to consider while preparing to travel. For more in depth articles and advice view the articles listed below:

Travel to High risk countries
https://uit.stanford.edu/security/travel/high-risk-countries-recommendations

Travel to China or Russia
http://security.uri.edu/travel/travel-to-china-or-russia/