Protect Your Personal Information During Travel

Traveling with digital devices—such as laptops, cell phones, and tablets—is often necessary in order to stay connected while you are away from the office or home. With this in mind, criminals are hard at work to determine how to access and steal your personal information.

Digital devices may be successfully attacked with malware and automated attack tools. As you continue to make plans for travel, the University of Miami wants to ensure that your data remains secure.

Here are some tips to ensure the safety of your information when you travel:

Before You Go

Never post your upcoming travel plans on social media sites. You never know who can access that information in order to know when your home will be vacant and vulnerable to an attack.

If a device, credit card, or document is not absolutely required for your trip, leave it at home. This is especially important if the device has confidential or sensitive data.

If you must bring cards or documents with you, make a copy of these items and store the copy in a secure place or keep the data only on University-approved cloud storage—such as Box, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive—in case the original is lost and access is needed while abroad or to facilitate secure sharing and collaboration. Also, consider using RFID-blocking wallets or bags to protect cards and passwords.

If you must bring a device with you, ensure it is configured for maximum security:

  • Back up any data and wipe the device before leaving.
  • Encrypt the device when possible.
  • Install antivirus software.
  • Run all updates to systems and applications. Updates installed on unsecured networks may contain malware.
  • Enable any firewalls, screen locks, timeout functions, and automatic wipes. Automatic wipes are especially useful if a device is lost or stolen since this provides the option for the device to be wiped after a number of unsuccessful attempts to access it.
  • Turn off file-sharing and printer-sharing applications. These can be used to connect to your device.
  • Set strong passwords, codes, or screen locks that include numbers, characters, and special characters. Create new passwords on accounts you will need to access while traveling.
  • Rename your device to something other than the generic/default name that is assigned to them at the factory.

Familiarize yourself with updates related to your personal safety and security, laws and regulations in countries regarding the movement of information, technology, software, and equipment across borders:

  • Visit the United States Department of State website to check your destination country's safety and security information. Enroll in the STEP program for regular US embassy updates on breaking safety/security news.
  • Many countries have different laws regarding data privacy and the search and seziure of electronic devices. Your data may be monitored or stored while being transferred accross their networks, including Internet, email and telephone communications. Your belongings may be searched or seized during customs inspections, hotel stays, etc., with or without your consent or knowledge.
  • Use of encryption to protect information may be forbidden and the transfer of items or information may be severely limited or banned in some countries. Check with the Office of Export Compliance for more information.

While You're Away

A good general rule is to assume that anything you do over public Wi-Fi is part of a public conversation. Try to use a travel router with a prepaid SIM card for your own personal Wi-Fi network. If you must use public Wi-Fi, secure your connection using a virtual private network (like the University of Miami's Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can secure your connection on public networks).

Do not use your personal device to access University data and resources. Use a UM-issued device instead.

Use secure services like Zoom to call/chat with your friends and family back home.

Be aware of your surroundings, and consider purchasing a privacy screen. Disable your device(s) from connecting to hotspots automatically. Avoid using shared computers in cyber cafes, public areas, hotel business centers, or devices belonging to other travelers, colleagues, or friends. Do not connect to USB charging stations that do not involve direct connection to an electrical outlet and do not log in to applications and/or websites you don't need while traveling. This may allow the transfer of malware to your devices or expose your information to compromise and theft.

Be careful of the amount of information you are sharing on social media while away from home. You may be providing answers to security questions. Enable your privacy settings and be mindful of who may have access to the information you're sharing.

Turn off data roaming, as the use of data while traveling abroad can be very expensive. Always keep your Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location services such as GPS off when you're not using them. Ensure your Bluetooth is only paired with known devices. When not using your device(s), shut it off and physically remove its battery.

Lastly, and very importantly, keep your device(s) with you at all times during your travel! Do not assume they will be safe in your hotel room or in a hotel safe.

When You're Back

Upon return, change any and all passwords you may have used abroad. Back up any data you stored on your devices, and wipe them clean upon your return. Also, delete access points (Wi-Fi connections, etc.) stored on your device(s) during travel when you return home.

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: