Tips for Traveling Safely with Technology

Are you taking your laptop, iPad or smartphone with you on a research trip? These tips will help keep your device and your data secure.

Note: The article on what to do if your device is stolen provides information on the UC travel insurance program, which does cover damage to laptop computers incurred during foreign (NOT domestic) travel.

Set up your devices so that you can track them!

For Apple device (MacBook, iPad and iPhone), Apple offers a free service called "Find My iPad/Phone" that allows you to pinpoint the location of your device on a map that you can access from anywhere. You can also use this service to remotely lock and wipe your device. For information on setting up this service, see:

For Windows computers and Android-based smartphones and tablets, LS IT recommends the free (for up to 3 devices) Prey utility that will allow you to locate your device on a map, lock your device remotely, and even wipe your device remotely:

These utilities take just a few minutes to set up, and can help you (or the police) locate your devices if they are lost or stolen.

Configure your devices so that you can remotely wipe them if they are stolen!

While having a computer stolen is a pain, it's nothing compared to cleaning up after your identity has been stolen. The same utilities mentioned above (Find My Mac/iPad/iPhone and Prey) also enable you to remotely wipe the hard disk of your computer in the event that it is stolen or lost. You may lose the hardware, but there's no need to lose your identity, too!

Additionally, smartphones, iPads and other tablet devices that are configured to use the UC Davis uConnect/Office 365 email service have an additional option. By logging into Outlook Web Access, then going to Settings (the "gear" menu in the top right corner) > Options > General > Mobile Devices, you can see a list of all of the devices that are currently syncing to your uConnect account. You can also select an individual device and click the "Wipe Device" button to remotely delete your email and calendar information from the device.

Make sure that your data is backed up—even while you're traveling!

Particularly people who are collecting research data while traveling should make sure that their data is being backed up, even while they're away. Losing your research data—whether it's due to theft or equipment failure—is an easy risk to address.

Some UC Davis-supported options for doing this include cloud storage services like, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive for Business. Each of these services provides a sync utility that will automatically sync data between your computer and the cloud. If you get in the habit of storing your documents and data in the sync folder for your preferred storage service, your data will be automatically backed up to the cloud as long as you have internet connectivity.

UC Davis also makes the CrashPlan computer backup service available at a very low cost ($100/year for up to 4 computers). CrashPlan can back up your entire computer versus the cloud storage services that only back up one sync folder.

You can find information about these options and links to vendor websites here:

Backup Recommendations for Desktops, Laptops, and Mobile Devices

If you're traveling to parts of the world where you won't have good internet connectivity, consider traveling with a portable USB drive and using the backup software that's built into your computer (TimeMachine on Macs or Windows Backup on Windows). Portable drives are light to travel with and very inexpensive. However, we do recommend that you NOT store your backup drive with your laptop--the backup is no good to you if it gets stolen along with the computer. If you're taking your laptop on-the-go, leave your backup drive in your hotel room. We also recommend that you encrypt any portable backup drives (see below).

Password Protect and Encrypt your devices so that your data can't be stolen even if the device is!

The first part of this tip applies for any mobile computing device (laptop, smartphone, tablet): make sure that your device is password protected! The simple step of adding a password to your device can deter many kinds of identity theft. UC Davis provides a website that explains how to do this for many types of devices:

The second part of this tip, encryption, is a more advanced topic. We encourage you to contact LS IT if you would like assistance with encryption! Both Macs and Windows offer built-in encryption.

For Macs, the technology is FileVault (note, these directions are for MacOS X 10.7 - Lion--older versions need different directions):

For Windows, the technology is BitLocker (Windows 7 and 8.1):

While encryption is a technology we recommend (and it's required by campus policy if your computer contains sensitive data), be aware that losing your password or recovery key means that we will not be able to recover data from your encrypted computer. Again, we recommend consulting with LS IT if you have questions about encryption.

Protect yourself when using wireless (and even wired) networks!

When you are connected to a wireless network, anyone with access to the network equipment can "sniff" the data that flows between your computer and the Internet. This data could include emails that you send or receive, login information for websites that you use, data you access from file servers, etc.

You can protect yourself from this threat by using the free LS Virtual Private Network (VPN) service:

LS VPN Service

When you use the VPN, your computer creates a secure, encrypted "tunnel" back to our servers here at UC Davis. Any network traffic flowing to or from your computer will go through that tunnel. Even if someone is sniffing the traffic that's going through the tunnel, they will not be able to read it because it is encrypted.

Additional Resources

The campus IET Security website has a list of additional measures you can take to protect yourself, your computing devices, and your data while traveling: