OIT’s Security Team offers tips and tricks to remember when traveling outside of the United States.

A trip to a foreign country presents unique data security challenges. The nature of international travel requires you to use your laptop, tablet or smartphone in various unfamiliar places that can expose your data and device to malicious people and software. Be sure to follow the tips below as you prepare for your next international trip!

Before you go

Protect your Valuables

Remember that the information stored on your devices is just as important as the belongings in your suitcase. Protect yourself by leaving at home any electronic equipment you do not need during your travel. If you do bring hard copy documents, or data saved on a device, remember to first back up these documents at home before your trip. Limit the amount of sensitive data you take with you, and utilize strong passwords. Also remember to make sure your antivirus software is up to date.

UA faculty and staff members should check with their departments to see if loaner laptops are available for use while traveling.

Know the Rules

While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws and policies regarding online security and privacy. These can be different than U.S. laws. The State Department website offers safety information for other countries.

Install VPN

When preparing for your trip, install and configure the UA campus Virtual Private Network VPN software. This will secure your internet traffic abroad, and reduce your risk of data being compromised. Some countries may restrict the use of VPN, and can also block access to certain websites.


While traveling

Keep your electronic devices close by, and be aware of your surroundings.  Be cautious when connecting to networks in public places such as Internet cafes, coffee shops, book stores, airports and hotels.  You may choose not to use these services, or avoid using them for sensitive communications. Also, do not plug in untrusted accessories. These can be infected with malware intended to steal your data. Plan ahead and take all of the necessary accessories, such as headphones or flash drives, with you.

Do not use the same passwords or PINs abroad that you use in the United States. For example, if the hotel safety deposit requires a PIN, use a unique number. Also, do not enter your credentials into public computers. Public computers such as hotel business centers are often poorly maintained and provide minimal security protection.

Turn off your Wi-Fi when not in use. Attackers can easily spoof wireless network names to steal information. To help you avoid accidentally connecting your device to a rouge network, just turn the wireless service option off.

When you are utilizing a safe network connection, remember the warning signs and red flags of phishing attempts. Do not click on links you do not recognize, and do not visit sites that are not secure with https.

UA Services & Programs

If you are a DUO user, plan to take your DUO-registered device with you. DUO does work abroad; however, we recommend using the passcode option which requires no cellular or wireless data. On your DUO-registered device, in the DUO mobile app, tap the key icon to obtain a passcode that can be used to access your myBama or webmail account.  If you do not bring a DUO-registered device, you can utilize the self-service passcode option to generate passcodes.


When you return

Devices and accounts used abroad can be compromised. Change the password for any online account that you utilized internationally. If you used your online banking or myBama accounts outside of the U.S., change your password.