Information Technology

International Travel Security

Cockpit view of a plane approaching the runway for landing

Traveling for business or leisure often increases the risk of cyber targeting. Practice safe online behavior and security of Internet-enabled mobile devices. State Department travel advisories contains safety information for every country in the world.

Here are some tips (PDF) provided by the Department of Homeland Security regarding cybersecurity while traveling. Particular measures are recommended for high risk countries (SDSU) as listed. Consult the Recommendations for High Risk Countries for guidance.

Dangers of International Travel

  • Public wireless networks are insecure and may allow access to your Internet-enabled devices. Keep in mind that the public networks found at airports, restaurants, hotels, and cafes may be a threat.
  • Public computers are accessible by anyone. Travelers should not trust these computers as they may not be updated with the latest software. They may be infected with malicious viruses and software.
  • Travelers are often targeted by thieves. Be wary of your electronic devices.

Best Practices

Before you go

  • Conduct a full backup of your personal files to a secured cloud storage location.
  • Obtain a DUO MFA Token only if you will not have access to a mobile phone while traveling.
  • Test Global VPN connection and access.
  • Install mobile security apps on your personal devices.
  • Install a virtual private network (VPN) for your personal cell phone.
  • Ensure your personal phone is updated.
  • Only include information on the device that you will need for your travel.
  • Encrypt your hard drive to protect your data.

While traveling

  • Keep an eye on all devices.
  • Be conscious of your surroundings.
  • Don't use carry data on USB sticks.
  • Do not plug your phone into charger kiosks.
  • Don't leave your device unattended.
  • Don’t connect to unknown Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth devices.
  • Keep your machines clean.
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) for remote networking.
  • Disable broadcast services like Wi-Fi access points, Bluetooth devices, and GPS when not needed.
  • Use private browsing whenever possible.

Returning home

  • Devices used abroad may be compromised. Take safety measures such as changing passwords when you return.
  • Run antivirus scans on your devices.
  • Return your loaner device to your IT department.
  • If your credit card was used while traveling, check your bank statements for any discrepancies.
  • Change any and all passwords you may have used abroad.

Recommendations for Travel to High Risk Countries

Traveling to high risk countries requires special consideration. It is important to take the minimum required to get your work done.


  • Consider taking a new or rebuilt machine and load only data that is needed for the trip. Make sure to encrypt the machine.
  • USB drives should be left at home whenever possible. USB drives are easily lost and corrupted. If traveling with a USB drive is necessary, be sure that it is encrypted.
  • If you are taking your own laptop be sure that the software is current, make sure the computer is backed up and encrypted, and remove any documents containing sensitive information.

Mobile Phones

  • Consider if your phone is necessary for the trip. Are you able to get by with a Wi-Fi only device?
  • Consider borrowing a phone in the country or purchase a phone with a local SIM card.
  • If using your own phone is necessary, back up the phone and enroll it in an international rate plan. After the data is saved, reset the phone to factory defaults, and restore your backup upon return.

More Recommendations

  • Do not plug your phone into charger kiosks. There is a possibility of a hostile computer on the other end.
  • Be cautious of your surroundings. Watch for potential thieves and people looking over your shoulder.
  • Do not leave devices unattended including in hotel safes.

Article courtesy of San Diego State University