Protect your devices when travelling

Posted on Friday, October 19, 2018

Protect your devices when travelling

Protect your devices when travelling

Preparing for your trip

  • Protect yourself and all University of Ottawa assets from being hacked. Remove all confidential or sensitive and non-public University information from your devices.
  • Install all the required updates, patches, anti-virus, anti-malware software.
  • Create a backup disk to leave at home.
  • Enable local firewall protection.
  • Install and enable full disk encryption.
  • Secure all devices with unique passcodes and passwords.

While travelling

  • If possible, wipe your drives before you leave and before your connect to your home or business network.
  • When logging onto University computers, enable VPN promptly to establish an encrypted communication between your computer and the University's systems.
  • Encryption is highly recommended. However, be prepared to decrypt if a request is made by Canadian or foreign customs, federal, or local government officials. This is another reason to remove confidential and sensitive information from your devices prior to traveling.
  • Only visit secure websites that use TLS/SSL certificates as noted by the presence of https, a lock icon, and/or a green address bar.
  • Stay vigilant! Conducting personal business that involves discussing or providing personally identifiable information (PII) or personal health information (PHI) online or over the phone puts that information at risk. Assume that all conversations and electronic communications are subject to sniffing or eavesdropping.
  • Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations governing sharing and exporting certain types of information and technology.
  • Use caution when purchasing electronic devices and commodities abroad due to laws prohibiting you to travel outside the country with certain type of products.

When you return home

  • Reimage your machine.
  • Don't trust that your system is uncompromised or that your anti-virus or anti-malware is all-protecting.
  • Change all passwords for the accounts used during your travels. This will mitigate the risk of compromised login credentials.
  • Reinstall anti-virus and anti-malware software.
  • Run the most comprehensive scans possible to inspect all files on your computer.
  • Install configuration management software.
  • It will reveal any programs that are in need of patches or updates as well as programs that have reached end-of-life. Free software is available on the Internet for non-commercial use.
  • Restore files and data from backups.
  • After you have inspected and cleaned your computer's memory, you can restore all your personal information and files. Remember not to do this until you have completely scanned your devices.
  • Do not connect secured or re-secured devices to ones that you have not yet re-secured.

To avoid

  • Never leave your devices unattended, even for a short time.
  • Turn off Bluetooth connectivity on your device.
  • Do not use public or untrusted terminals.
  • Avoid connecting to an unprotected network or using Wi-Fi access with weak WEP keys. WPA2 is considered safe. Log only into wireless networks with WPA2 configured.
  • Never log onto a public device to check your email, social media, and other accounts.
  • Don't open suspicious or unexpected emails and attachments and don’t click on emailed links.
  • Don’t access sensitive websites that store your payment card information.
  • Avoid exposing personal information, such as your name, home address, or phone number.

Tips for mobile devices

  • Consider obtaining a prepaid plan on an inexpensive phone to use while traveling abroad. Enter only the data you need for the trip, such as important contact information or travel notes. You should wipe the device of all data before disposing of it. Apply safe practices to secure your device.
  • If traveling abroad for business or research, read up on data privacy, Export Control Laws and Trade Sanctions for Canada and your destination country.
  • Certain dual-purpose devices for military and commercial use (i.e. security software, encryption, computer programs, etc.), may be subject to export regulations. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada requires certain transactions with countries such as Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Syria, to be authorized under an export permit.
  • The less you carry, the less you have to worry about. Take with you only the devices that you need.
  • Be sure to have the appropriate power adapters and a surge protector.
  • Document the serial number of your laptop before you leave.


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