Computers and Personal Information
Power adapters and converters: Two components provide external power to your computer: adapters and converters. The adapter is the plug itself, adapting the prongs on a standard U.S. three-pronged power cord to match the prongs required by the power outlets at your destination. The converter (or transformer) changes the local voltage to that required by your laptop. U.S. outlets are 120V. Most new laptop computer and mobile devices accept a broad range of input voltages from 100-240 volts by default, so they will only need a plug adapter, but not a power converter. However, there might still be some devices or computers that work only on the U.S. standard of 120V. To be sure, check your device to see what voltage range it accepts as inputs. If your power adaptors can’t handle the voltage of the location you plan to visit, you will need to purchase a voltage converter.
For more information on electricity conversion visit the Independent Traveler website.
Make sure your system is up to date: Shortly before leaving the U.S., make sure that your laptop is updated with the latest security and virus patches. This will help ensure that you have the latest protections and help keep you from being slowed down or incurring unnecessary data usage charges from running automatic update while you are connecting remotely.
Wireless Internet/Wi-Fi and Free Internet: If you use an open, free WiFi connection, anything information that you enter into a web page—any email address, any password, any form data—is at risk. Avoid connecting to any website or service that requires password authentication and is not encrypted. In particular, you should avoid surfing to banking institutions, financial sites or any site that requires use of your credit card.
When you do use a free or open network connection, whether wireless or wired (such as a network cable in a hotel room) the very first thing you should do is to connect to the BU VPN by logging in at http://vpn.bu.edu. Once you are connected to the VPN, your network traffic will be encrypted and you will be much more protected from hackers.
Avoid accessing any sensitive website from any computer that is not yours, such as the public computers available at Internet cafes, libraries or the business centers of hotels. The security of such machines is highly unreliable.
Take extra precautions to safeguard your data
Create a full backup of your data before you go. See details on the IS&T Notebook Backup service.
Avoid carrying any sensitive data unless absolutely necessary. Consult with your IT personnel about tools to scan your system and find sensitive data so that it can be removed in advance of your trip. Many people are surprised to find that Social Security or credit card numbers have been saved somewhere on their system.
Encrypt any sensitive data if it is essential that you take it with you.
For more detailed information about backup services, encryption and traveling with your laptop and data, please visit IS&T Data Protection.
Note: Encryption technology is subject to U.S. export controls. Certain data content that you maintain on your laptop may also be subject to U.S. export control laws. For example, users intending to travel to Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Iran or Iraq must contact the Office of Research Compliance for assistance in determining whether an export license is required, and how to apply for one. Certain countries may inspect laptops and data upon entry, so you should be careful about proprietary, patentable, or sensitive information that may be stored on your device. If you have encrypted files, customs officials in some countries (including the U.S.) may require you to decrypt the files for inspection. If possible, you may wish to take an alternate, “clean” computer when traveling to avoid exposing sensitive data to inspection. Refer to the Export Controls section of the Toolkit for more detailed information.