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Image of airplane, laptop, coffee, reading glassesTravelling With Electronics

Whether travelling for work or for pleasure, you should take precautions to protect your electronic devices and the personal information they may contain. The precautions you should take may depend on where you are travelling and the type of work you are doing.

  1. Don’t use public computers 
  2. Use a trustworthy VPN service when going online
  3. Never use open/passwordless wifi networks
  4. Backup your data before you leave
  5. Use Office 365 or SharePoint to store your data
  6. Set your password reset challenge questions at msvu.ca/password
  7. Remove personal information from your devices
  8. Log out of cloud and password apps before crossing borders
  9. Install security software on all devices, including MacBooks and smart phones
Staff and faculty have a legal and ethical obligation to protect the personal information of others, and there are two related laws in Nova Scotia that apply to universities:

  1. The Personal Information International Disclosure Act (PIIDPA) restricts the Mount’s ability to store or access personal information outside of Canada.
  2. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP) requires University staff and faculty to take reasonable security measures to protect personal information. 
Violating these laws could incur fines and prison sentences, so they should be taken seriously. If you absolutely need to access or store personal information outside of Canada, contact the University's FOIPOP Administrator for approval.

Also, privacy breaches negatively impact people, so we have an ethical duty to protect the safety of the Mount community and any research subjects.

While travelling, you should limit the amount of personal information you carry to reduce the risk of a privacy breach. Only take what you need, and preferably take none.
Personal information is information about an identifiable individual, or information that can be used to identify someone. This includes obvious things like name, address, phone number, age, and gender, but also opinions and emails about someone, among other things. Please see the MSVU FOIPOP website for more information on what constitutes personal information.

If practical, don’t carry any personal information with you. If a device contains personal information, consider leaving it at home or storing the information online instead, such as on OneDrive or on a SharePoint site, both which store data in Canada. Then you can access it on the road without carrying it on your device. 

Yes, but please take measures to reduce your privacy risk.

If personal information has been stored on your device, consider leaving it at home, using burner/ loaner devices in the foreign country, or securely deleting any personal information from the device. Computer forensics experts can undelete files that are not securely deleted. File shredding tools like Eraser can securely delete files from laptops, and some antivirus programs provide secure file shredding. 

Reinstalling and re-encrypting your phone or tablet removes any trace of pre-existing data.

If you have apps like Outlook or OneDrive on your phone or tablet, consider uninstalling or signing out of those apps before you cross borders. You can log back into them when you reach your destination.

If you need to access data on your trip, store it in your OneDrive or on a SharePoint site so if your device is lost, or is accessed by an official, it would not be a privacy breach.

Travelling or not, it is best to encrypt your mobile devices, but some countries have restrictions on the use and import of encryption technology. If you are travelling to a participating state of the Wassenaar Arrangement, a personal use exemption would apply to your personal devices. If your destination is not on this list, you should look up the laws for that country. Other controlled devices could include walkie-talkies, satellite phones, drones, and handheld GPS’s, so research your destination’s import laws before your leave.

Encrypting phones and tablets is relatively easy. Consult your manufacturer’s manuals on how to do so.

Encrypting laptops can be more challenging. Windows 10 Professional has a feature called BitLocker that you can use depending on the features of your computer, and other proprietary and open source options are available.

Please contact the IT&S Help Desk if you need help with encrypting drives, but consider storing your data on OneDrive or in a SharePoint site instead of on your device.

In the past, the United States has required passengers to check in laptops depending on the country of departure. This currently is not the case as the 2017 US laptop ban was lifted in July 2017, but you should always research what is allowable to carry on your flight before any trip.

Computers in coffee shops or hotels could be infected with malware or eavesdropping tools, like key loggers, so avoid using these types of computers if possible. If you must use such computers, limit it to non-sensitive personal business.

This varies by country, but, yes probably, and sometimes officials even can confiscate and copy your device. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agents can demand your device password and can copy your device, but they are not supposed to log into cloud accounts nor download files from your cloud accounts. CBSA officials can charge and arrest you for denying access to a device.

If a border official asks to access your device containing third party personal information, advise them that the device contains confidential university information. If they insist, comply with their request. Your personal safety comes first. If this happens, inform the FOIPOP Administrator of the incident as soon as possible.

See this article "Your privacy at airports and borders" by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada for more information on your rights when crossing Canadian and US borders.

Your research subjects’ safety and your personal safety could be at risk if your data were compromised in some countries. Clearly plan how you will collect and store this data in your research ethics application and in your data management plan.  

A possible solution could be to store data directly in a cloud service over a VPN without saving the data on your device. Please consult with IT&S and the Research Office about this well ahead of your departure. 

That will depend on your mobile contract. Using your Canadian plans abroad may not be possible, or it could be very expensive. Talk to your carrier about your options. A roaming plan may reduce your costs. It might be cheaper to get a local plan or burner phone.

Internet traffic on free or public wifi (including in airports, hotels, restaurants, etc.) may be monitored and may not be encrypted. Sometimes hackers set up fake wifi networks to steal your credentials and personal information. Avoid using these services if possible, and always use a VPN when connecting with untrusted wifi networks. Only connect to legitimate wifi networks, and never use a wifi that doesn’t require a username and password.

Some countries monitor all Internet traffic, so always use the same precautions when travelling.

If visiting a post-secondary institution, use the eduroam wifi service if available. You should set up eduroam access on your device before you leave to ensure it works on your device. Click here for more on eduroam.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that hides your Internet traffic from eavesdropping, which is useful when travelling abroad or when using a public wifi network, such as in an airport, coffee shop, or hotel. See our VPN Tips webpage for more information on choosing a trustworthy VPN provider.

For various reasons, it may be difficult to contact the IT&S Help Desk for password assistance while travelling, so set your online password change challenge questions before you leave. Then, if your password is compromised, you can reset it at msvu.ca/password.

You can check the Foreign Affairs Canada site to research the country you are travelling to for travel advisories.

You can also contact the embassy of the country you are travelling to with any questions concerning their laws.

You can register with the Canadian Embassy in the country you are travelling to so they are aware that you are in the country, for instance in the case of a natural disaster.

When travelling to high risk areas, please take extra precautions with your devices and for your personal safety.