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While traveling abroad, you should not expect privacy on your electronic devices, particularly when connecting to public or free Wi-Fi networks (i.e., internet cafes, hotels, restaurants). Yet, protecting your digital safety is just as important as your personal safety when traveling abroad. Learn more about how you can protect your devices and yourself from unwanted attention. 

Any information you send electronically can be intercepted. Wireless devices, including the Internet of Things (any nonstandard computing device that connects to Wi-Fi and can transmit data), such as smartwatches, smart speakers, etc. are especially vulnerable.

Consider the following precautions:

  • Ensure your device has up-to-date protections installed before traveling i.e., antivirus, spyware.
  • Clear your Internet browser after each use: delete history files, caches, cookies, and temporary internet files
  • Do not leave electronic devices unattended
  • Do not auto-save passwords on devices and disable auto-sign in features
  • Be discreet when entering passwords by shielding the screen from view
  • Avoid public and free Wi-Fi networks if you can. In some countries they are controlled by security services; in all cases they are insecure.
  • Report lost or stolen devices to the local embassy or consulate immediately
  • Change your passwords upon returning to the US

Please visit the following resources, provided by TTS, on protecting your devices abroad

Traveling overseas with electronic devices

Information for students

Information for business travelers

Higher Education as a target

Foreign travel can sometimes attract attention from government security services and other entities who are interested in finding out more about you and the purpose of your trip. 

Surveillance can also be used to target individuals for crimes, such as robbery. Regardless of the motive, there are two types of surveillance to be aware of. 

  1. Fixed surveillance usually involves a stakeout or electronic monitoring of activities. 
  2. Mobile surveillance is conducted on-the-move in the form of a walk-by, drive-by, or the following of a target.


How to be a hard target for surveillance

  • Be cautious but polite
  • Be unpredictable. Consider your daily movements and take notice of any pattern or routines that attract attention
  • Limit the amount of personal information you share with strangers
  • Exercise discretion and good judgment
  • Closely question and consider the motives of overly interested strangers and the information they are seeking 
  • If you are traveling to or spending significant time in a country that has strained relations with the US, be aware you may be at higher risk for surveillance. Some interactions with individuals from the host government may be unavoidable, but do not let the relationship become more than the professional level

When you leave the United States, you need to know your responsibilities under export control regulations.  If you are traveling with your laptop or any other electronic devices these items along with the underlying technology, any data on your device, proprietary information, confidential records, and encryption software are all subject to export control regulations. 

Some foreign governments have regulations that permit the seizure of travelers’ computers and the review of their contents.  U.S. Customs officials are also authorized to review the contents of travelers’ a laptop without probable cause and can be held until your return.


Travel Laptop Loaner Program

Tufts Technology Services offers loaner laptops for faculty, staff, and postdocs traveling for Tufts University programs or business. This program is meant to reduce travel challenges to the Tufts community both in addressing the availability of having a laptop and in protecting data while traveling. Read below or visit the Laptop Loaner Program website.

Features include:

  • 14” Dell  Latitude 7440 or 13” MacBook Air laptop with optional carrying case and international power adapters. Laptop models subject to change.
  • Laptop are encrypted and preloaded with the standard Tufts configuration.

To request a laptop:

  • Complete the request form or contact TTS at least 10 business days in advance of the travel date.
  • Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. Every attempt will be made to stock sufficient laptops to meet demand.
  • Be advised that international travel can pose additional challenges for using technology. Access to social media, email, and other websites may be blocked or limited, and some countries ban encrypted devices, although many recognize the Wassenaar Arrangement and grant exceptions for “personal use.”