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Information Security

SCU Security Guides

Traveling with Technology

The risk of electronic devices being compromised increases when traveling internationally. Learn how you can reduce the risk with these precautions and tips.


Always use additional precautions when traveling internationally with electronic devices.
International travel increases the likelihood that both personal and university owned devices and
data will be compromised.

The Santa Clara University Information Office (ISO) recommends the following baseline
precautions are taken to reduce the likelihood that your devices will be compromised. If any of
your devices are compromised, having taken these precautions will reduce the negative impacts
for you and for SCU

For questions about any of the recommendations listed here, please consult with the
Technology Help Desk (408­554­5700) or the ISO (

Pre­Travel: What to Do Before Leaving on an International Trip:

  • Start preparing weeks before leaving for your trip.
  • Whenever possible, use loaner laptops and/or handheld devices while traveling.
    Take the computer, but leave your data behind. This reduces the likelihood of theft or
    compromise that will expose your data. Upon your return, the device can be wiped clean,
    which reduces the risks of importing threats back into your home environment.
    • Check with the Technology Help Desk for more information on loaner devices.
  • Encrypt all mobile devices that you are taking with you ( computers, tablets, mobile
    phones, etc.) You should check to see if the country you are traveling to has any
    encryption import restrictions. Some countries (such as China, Israel, and Russia) have
    restrictions on the import and use of encryption tools and do not allow cryptography tools
    to be imported or used within their borders without a license, or in some extreme cases,
    at all.
  • Loaner devices do not need encryption. If you aren't carrying around all your
    usual data and information, the chances of something being compromised is
    reduced. This is especially handy when traveling in countries that don't allow
  • Do not store passwords or other credentials on the device
    • Do not store passwords on the device outside of password management
      applications designed to securely store and handle login credentials
      (usernames/passwords combinations).
    • Be sure to reconfigure the web browser(s) to not save passwords. This prevents
      the login credentials from being saved in the browser cache.
    • The IT Service Center or the ISO can provide recommendations for safe
      password storage options.
  • Leave sensitive data stored securely on SCU servers and access it remotely only
    via SCU’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. This requires planning in advance
    (to install VPN on your device), but it goes a long way toward providing secure access to
    your data without transporting it with you. Make sure that you test your ability to get to
    your data using VPN from some place off campus before leaving.
  • Make sure all operating systems and applications are updated and patched before
    leaving for your trip.
  • If you aren’t using a loaner computer, uninstall unused and unnecessary
    applications and turn off unneeded services on your computer. Leaving them
    installed and/or running only serves to provide additional, possibly "unlocked" doors for
    intruders to gain access through when attacking your device.
  • When you use a loaner device, you should still make sure all operating systems
    and applications are updated and patched before leaving. You don't have to worry
    about turning off unused and unnecessary applications, because the loaner should not
    have a bunch of extra stuff running on it—it's a blank slate for you to safely use while
  • Whether you take your own computer or loaner, don’t accept any patches or
    updates while in foreign countries, as infected updates are becoming a more common
    attack vector.
  • Make sure you are running at the lowest possible privilege level.
    • While traveling, do not use an administrator account as your primary user
      account. Running as a non­administrative user on your system will defeat a
      significant number of malware and browser exploits, because your computer is
      less likely to allow software, including malicious software (malware), to be
      installed without you (1) clicking "install" and (2) typing your administrative
  • Only connect to known and trusted networks.
    • On all your mobile devices, turn off "join wireless networks automatically." Always
      manually select the specific network you want to join, only after confirming its
      name and origin with the provider. Turn off wireless and Bluetooth, when not
      actively being used.
  • Keep track of what credentials you use while traveling.
    • Whether you sign into personal or SCU accounts, keep track of the services you
      have accessed. The ISO strongly recommends that you change these passwords
      when you return. If you’re on an extended trip, change them periodically. Don’t
      use the same password for multiple services.
      Post­Travel: What to Do When You Return to Campus After Travelling Internationally
  • Change passwords for all services you accessed during your trip, on a trusted
  • As a rule of thumb, have the devices you took on the trip assessed by IT Service Center
    staff or the ISO for signs of intrusion—before you connect to SCU’s network or your
    home network.


Additional Tips and Advice

  • We strongly recommend that you use loaner devices because the risk of compromise
    while traveling internationally is high.
  • If for some reason you cannot take a loaner laptop, be advised that it can be extremely
    time-consuming and difficult to determine if a device has been compromised. As such, it
    is best to act accordingly—if you didn't travel with a loaner device, seek help from your
    local IT support to format and reinstall the operating system and applications upon
    returning to campus.
  • Return your mobile devices to their pre­travel configuration. This includes any device you
    are taking with you (computers, tablets, mobile phones, etc.).
  • Before connecting to another system on campus, turn off any services that you enabled
    specifically to facilitate your work while traveling, update and apply any patches that
    were released while you were away, and scan any data you brought back for malware.
  • For additional information on international travel security best practices, consult:
  • For more information on travel to specific countries, consult: