Technology on the Go
Many people love the adventure that traveling provides: meeting new people, seeing new places, and having new experiences are part of the allure. Technology makes it easier than ever to satisfy our wanderlust. We can use our connected devices to discover the exotic locales we wish to visit, book tickets on planes and trains, practice driving virtually, and seamlessly navigate once we get to our final destination. For all this ease that technology brings, we should prepare our technology for travel as carefully as we plan our travel itineraries.
- Back-up your data! Backing up your data ensures that you won't lose information if your device is lost or stolen. Consider encrypting your data as well, but check with your IT support staff first about how best to implement encryption.
- Protect your devices with a strong password or lengthy passcode. Sometimes devices get lost or stolen, even when we are being careful. By protecting your device with a passcode or lengthy password, you make it harder for your device to be used and data to be accessed by others.
- Make sure your devices and applications are up to date. Keep your applications and devices up to date and patched. This helps protect your device and data from security vulnerabilities and threats.
- Just say no to unsecured public Wi-Fi. Having a wireless connection is almost a necessity for the modern traveler. However, using an unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspot can allow others to view the contents of your electronic activity. Never access your sensitive financial accounts from an unsecured network. If you must access sensitive data from an unsecured network, be sure that you use a VPN service.
- Double check your MFA settings. Many of us rely on multifactor authentication (MFA) to secure both personal and work-related accounts. Be sure that you know how (or if) that will work in the countries that you are visiting. For instance, if your MFA relies on SMS, be sure that you will be able to receive that message in the destination that you are visiting. If the option is available to you, consider using a physical token option to ensure you'll be able to login to your accounts.
Grinnell College uses Duo as a two-factor or multifactor authentication service. Duo works by utilizing a secondary mobile device like a smartphone. If you plan to take your mobile device with you when you study abroad, Duo will work just as if you were here in the U.S. whether you have cell phone service or not. The Duo Passcode option does not require a data or Wi-Fi connection when used on your mobile device.
If you do not take your mobile device with you while you study abroad, you will need to do one of two things:
- Get a new mobile device in the country you will be studying in. Add it to your already set-up Duo account.
- Get a Duo security token to take with you before you travel. This is a small hardware device carried by a user to authorize access to a network or service. You use this token in place of a secondary mobile device. To get a Duo token, please contact the Technology Services Desk at 641-2694901 or by email at TechnologyServicesDesk@Help.Grinnell.edu.
- Update your physical location with your password vault. Many people use password vaults to manage all of their account passwords. Don't be surprised if your password vault requires additional verification steps when logging into it from a location that is not in your home country. (After all, we count on these vaults to be secure!) Check the vendor documentation or your account settings to make sure that there are no country restrictions or settings that you need to change before your trip. Also double-check that you're able to access your recovery/secondary email address just in case there is an issue.
- Consider leaving your daily devices at home. If you are traveling to a location where you are concerned about your individual privacy rights, consider leaving your primary mobile device at home and purchasing a replacement device to take with you instead. Put only the apps, services, and data that you need for that trip on the device. Some businesses and colleges and universities offer programs where a traveler can check out a "clean laptop" when traveling for business purposes. Using these types of devices help limit any exposure of your personal data. Check your data plan as well. A "burner phone" or car GPS may be cheaper.
- Be smart about posting on social media. It is always fun to post vacation pictures in the moment, but online postings on social networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) can let other people know that you are not at home and that your home may be empty. Posting vacation pictures on social media once you are safely home helps protect your physical belongings.
- Use hotel safes to protect your technology. Here's another place where there is an overlap between online safety and physical safety. Just like you would put your passport, jewelry, and money in a hotel safe, consider using that safe to hold your electronic devices when you are not carrying them with you. Not only are the devices themselves expensive to replace, your personal data contained in the device can be irreplaceable (especially if you skipped the first tip on this list).
- Remember your adapters! Make sure you have power adapters that will work with three-prong plugs and that they fit the country's outlets. Some travel adapters only accept two-prong plugs. (If you're attending a conference, you may be able to borrow a charging cable temporarily.) Outlets also vary, even, for example, between the UK and Ireland. Your technology gadgets are not very helpful when they run out of charge or cannot be powered on. Charge and take a portable battery pack.
- Mind your voltage! Like plug types, different parts of the world use different voltages. Make sure that your technology devices can run on the voltage used at your destination. Getting shocked with 220V is not the same as 110V.
As surely as you can reduce wrinkles in your clothing with careful packing, so too can you avoid the most common technology travel woes by preparing before you leave home. StaySafeOnline.org published a video for safe summer travel but it applies to traveling at any time: TOP TIPS: Stay Safe While Traveling This Summer.
*** Security Matters column blog posts are from Educause Annual Campus Security Awareness Campaign.
Ben Woelk is an Information Security Office Program Manager at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Joanna Lyn Grama is a Senior Consultant at Vantage Technology Consulting Group. © 2018 Ben Woelk and Joanna Grama. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License