Technology Recommendations for Travelers to High-Risk Countries

UB faculty and staff traveling to high-risk countries should follow these guidelines to keep information on their devices safe from cyberattacks.


What are high-risk countries?

UB compiles a list of high-risk countries that are the subject of Travel Warnings by the U.S. Department of State and countries identified as high risk by other U.S. Government sources such as the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Best practices

Before you go

While you're traveling

  • Do not plug your phone into USB charger kiosks. There may be a hostile computer on the other end of that innocent-looking wire
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for those looking over your shoulder or potential thieves
  • Do not leave your devices unattended. Even hotel safes are not secure
  • Use  the UB VPN if accessing university resources outside of UB
  • Review your Duo two-step verification options
  • Contact your departmental IT support or the UBIT Help Center immediately if your Duo codes are compromised and need to be reset

When you return

  • Reset your UBITName password
  • If you checked your voicemail while traveling, change your voicemail passcode
  • If you brought your computer, save any documents you created while traveling to an external drive and restore from your pre-departure backup

Traveling with computers

Best: Travel light

We strongly recommend that you leave your current devices here and travel with a UB-provided loaner device. Loaner devices are set up specifically for your use and wiped back to factory settings upon your return. Contact your departmental IT support to see if loaners are available.

Good: Travel with less data

Another option is to take a new or freshly rebuilt machine and only take the data you’ll need for the trip.

  • Whenever possible, do not travel with a USB device or other removable media storage. These are easily lost and easily corrupted. If you must travel with a USB device, be sure that it’s encrypted.
  • Remove unnecessary data, such as emails you have downloaded, before you travel.

Minimum: Travel encrypted

If you must take your laptop or tablet, there are additional steps you should take before you go:

  • Make sure your software and operating system are up to date, and install anti-virus and firewall software.
  • Make sure your device is fully backed up and encrypted
  • Remove any documents containing Category 1- Restricted Data and Category 2- Private Data

When you return, save the documents you created while traveling to another device, completely wipe the device, and restore it from the backup made before your travel.

Traveling with mobile phones

Best: Go without

The first thing to consider is whether you really need a mobile phone. Are you going to make calls? Can you get by with a Wi-Fi-only device? Can you get by without a phone for a short trip?

Good: Get it there

Purchase, rent, or borrow a phone at your destination. You can also take an unlocked phone and purchase a local SIM card.

Minimum: Have a plan

If you must use your own phone:

  • Back it up before you leave
  • Enroll it in an international rate plan to avoid incurring exorbitant roaming charges
  • Save your data, reset to factory defaults, and restore your backup when you return
  • Make sure your apps and operating system are up to date, turn on Duo two-step verification (, and use security measures to lock your devices.

Planning ahead protects your privacy and reduces the risk to your personal information and the university’s information.  

China: a special travel situation

What to expect while you’re traveling

Travelers to the People's Republic of China have experienced a range of issues:

  • Access to services that we take for granted like Gmail and other Google apps, Wikipedia, and Yahoo Web Mail are often blocked altogether or filtered
  • Skype connections may be monitored by the government
  • Those using VPNs reported that they are often cut off for hours at a time
  • Hotel staff and government officials can access hotel room safes, so don't expect that a computer or mobile device left in a hotel safe will be secure

See also

Still need help?

Contact the UBIT Help Center.