Computers and Personal Information

Before traveling abroad, you should make sure your computer, or other electronic devices, can be plugged in and used at your destination. In most cases, you may need additional tools, such as power adapters and converters, to accommodate outlets and voltage at the host country as they are often different than those in the US.

  • The adapter is the plug itself, which fits over the standard US three-pronged power cord and matches the prongs required in the outlet at your destination.
  • The converter (or transformer) changes the local voltage to that required by your laptop.

Check your device to see what voltage range it accepts. Some devices or computers work only on the US standard of 120 volts, but most new laptops and mobile devices accept 100 to 240 volts, so they will only need a plug adapter. However, if your power adapters can’t handle the voltage of the location you plan to visit, you will need to purchase a converter.

For more information on electricity conversion, visit the Independent Traveler website.

Safe Access Precautions

  • Before leaving, update the operating system and virus protections. This will also help keep you from being slowed down or incurring unnecessary data usage charges from running automatic updates while connecting remotely.
  • If you use any public wireless internet connection, any information that you enter into a web page (email address, password, etc.) is at risk.
    • Avoid connecting to any website or service that is not encrypted and requires password authentication.
    • Avoid banking and financial sites or any site that requires the use of your credit card.
    • Secure websites can be identified by the web address beginning with “https” (not the normal “http”) and/or the “lock” icon somewhere in the browser window.
  • When using a public network connection, whether wireless or wired (e.g., network cable in a hotel room), the first thing you should do is to connect to the BU Virtual Private Network (VPN) by logging in at http://vpn.bu.edu.
    • Once connected, your session will be encrypted and you will have much greater protection from hackers.
  • Avoid accessing sensitive websites from any public computer, as the security of such machines is highly unreliable.

Safe Data Precautions

  • Create a full backup of your data before you go. See details on the IS&T CrashPlan Backup service.
  • Avoid carrying any sensitive information unless absolutely necessary.
    • Consult with IT personnel about tools to scan and remove such data prior to your trip.
    • Social Security or credit card numbers have often been unknowingly saved.
  • Encrypt any sensitive data if it is essential that you take it with you.

Export Control

Encryption technology and certain data is subject to US export controls and policies can vary widely by country, so it is recommended that you also contact Export Control to determine the specifics for your destination. For example:

  • Users intending to travel to Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Iran, or Iraq must contact Research Compliance to determine 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 US) may require you to decrypt the files for inspection.
    • You may wish to take an alternate “clean” computer when traveling to avoid exposing sensitive data to inspection.

For more detailed information about backup services, encryption, and traveling with your laptop and data, please visit IS&T Data Protection.