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Tips for traveling abroad safely with mobile devices

Published: 27 September 2012

To stay connected while traveling abroad for research, conferences and continued study, NDSU faculty, staff and students often bring along mobile electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones and tablets. But these devices, along with the personal or university-owned data on them, may be vulnerable to serious security threats. 

"Even when kept current with security software, mobile devices are at risk for attack with malware or other automated tools designed to obtain the data on them or for surveillance," said Theresa Semmens, NDSU’s chief information technology security officer. Semmens explained that this is particularly true when traveling to high-risk locations where there is civil unrest, political discord, strong scientific competition, or pervasive crime and violence. 

When traveling abroad with mobile devices, keep the following recommendations in mind before, during, and after travel.

  • If possible, do not take your work or personal electronic devices with you.  Instead, use a temporary device, such as an inexpensive laptop or a prepaid “throw away” cell phone.  Only take the device(s) you will truly need.
  • Update and patch your device’s operating system with institutionally recommended security software.
  • Use complex passwords or passcodes to protect each device. Do not use the same passwords/passcodes that you use for your work and personal devices and accounts.
  • Remove sensitive or personal information from your device, including logins and passwords, credit card information, your social security number and passport information.
  • Backup the data on your device and store a copy safely with your department or in another secure location.
  • Assume that anything you do on your device, particularly over the Internet, will be intercepted.  
  • Keep your device with you at all times during your travel, rather than leaving it behind at your hotel room.
  • Upon returning from your travel, immediately discontinue use of the device.  The hard drive should be wiped clean, and the operating system and other software should be reinstalled. Any “throw-away” device should be properly recycled.
  • Change any and all passwords you used abroad.

The Information Technology Division and the Office of International Programs will host a panel presentation, “iPhone, iPad, iTravel: Traveling Abroad Safely With Electronic Communication Devices,” to highlight these and other safety concerns and solutions that faculty, staff and students can use when traveling with mobile devices. The panel discussion will be held at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Memorial Union Peace Garden room, and again at noon on Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Memorial Union Hidatsa room. 

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs offers more information at about safety and security when traveling abroad, including general tips, travel warnings and country-specific information.

More information about traveling abroad safely with electronic devices is available at If you questions, contact NDSU’s chief IT security officer at 231-5870 or

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

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North Dakota State University
IT Help Desk Phone: +1 (701) 231-8685
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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013