Man with laptop in airport

Portable Device Security

Travel outside the United States has always presented challenges. In today’s international climate, it is important to be aware of the potential situations that could be encountered, and to prepare properly. Specifically, caution should be taken when traveling with laptops and other electronic data devices. 

There are certain situations when information and data can be accessed without your authorization, permission, or knowledge. On occasion, agencies like the Department of Homeland Security may question material on a computer upon return to the U.S. after a visit abroad. In such circumstances, everything on the computer will be open to inspection. Any data that is stored on the computer and is sensitive in nature, or requires an export license if shared outside the United States, will present a risk if the laptop is taken on a trip outside the United States. University employees should not be using University computers for personal financial information or any other personal information they would not want viewed without their permission. 

If you travel with a computer, realize that certain countries are noted for accessing files and operating systems in customs. Extreme caution should be taken if you have proprietary information, patentable information, or any sensitive/personal information stored. You must also be aware of any Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) laws concerning any software on your computers that may be non-exportable, or you may need a license to take it out of the country. It is recommended that you carry memory sticks instead of laptops. Take just what is needed for any presentations. Be careful, even with a tablet, PDA, and new cell phone technology. Most people have them loaded with their personal data that could lead to identity theft issues. 

For help with EAR, please go to the US Department of Commerce website and check to make sure everything is in compliance with your trip. 

Additional information regarding the requirements for an export license for computers and/or materials can be found at the US Department of the Treasury Resource Center.

For ITAR, if you are working on a government contract, please check the US Department of State website.

The Munitions List contains many systems, hardware, software, etc., that will need a license to export out of the country. Especially, Section 121.8. Software includes but is not limited to the system functional design,logic flow, algorithms, application programs, operating systems and support software for design, implementation, test, operation, diagnosis and repair. A person who intends to export software only should, unless it is specifically enumerated in § 121.1 (e.g., XIII(b), apply for a technical data license pursuant to part 125 of this subchapter.