What to do if you plan to travel internationally

International travelers should limit the amount of sensitive information that is stored on or accessible to any mobile device taken on the trip.

  • Backup your data and remove files from your device that you don’t need.
    • TIP – Consider moving your documents to a College-provided folder (Filer) that you can be accessed remotely.
    • TIP – Loaner computer may also be available, consult ITS Support to see if this is an option.

Traveling internationally can pose significant risks to information stored on or accessible through the computers, tablets and smartphones that we take with us.  Some of the risk is associated with increased opportunities for the loss or theft of the device due to the increased amount of direct physical handling of the equipment by individuals, and just merely the distraction of traveling. Additionally, our devices are put at risk because they will use networks that may be managed by entities that monitor and capture network traffic for competitive or malicious purposes.

US Customs and Border Protection – Quick Reference

Inspection of Electronic Devices

Printable Travel Guide

Pocket Guide to Protecting your Data

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Preparing for your trip

  • Identify “high risk” countries you plan to visit
    • State.gov issues current travel alerts & warnings.
  • Understand the sensitivity of the data you bring or access.
    • Customs and Border Patrol can’t search what you don’t have. Limit what you bring with you.
    • Removing unnecessary sensitive data from any device will reduce risk of exposure who may gain access to the device.
  • Learn about software and hardware travel restrictions
    • import /export controls differ by country – care needs to be taken when traveling to certain countries.

Customs and Border Patrol - Your rights at the border

***This information is taken from a CNN.com guide posted on 4:07PM ET, Thu Februrary 16, 2017


  • Can I be stopped or searched at the border?
    • Yes, it does NOT matter if you are an American citizen. Remember it could just be a random search.
  • Do I have the same legal rights at the border that I would elsewhere?
    • No. The Fourth Amendment, doesn’t apply in the same way at the border.
  • Am I allowed to speak to a lawyer?
    • It depends. US citizens are allowed to request. 
    • If you are not American you generally don’t have the right to an attorney unless you have been charged.
  • Can my laptop, phone or other devices be searched?
    • Yes, it does not matter if you are American or a green card holder.
  • Could I be asked for access to my social media profiles or email?
    • Yes, it does not matter if you American. But whether you are legally required to share it is still unclear… In December of 2016 the US Government started asking certain foreign visitors for access to their social media profiles. Countries asked — include the UK, France, and Spain.
  • What about data on my phone?
    • …it depends — agents are allowed to SWIPE through your phone or look through the documents and they can copy the data on your device. Courts are still grappling with this issue. 
  • What if I decline to hand over my passwords or PIN?
    • Again, sort of blurry — ultimately folks have to make a judgement about what implications could be for them: If American you cannot be denied entry into the US, but you might be delayed.
  • Can the agents keep my phone or laptop?
    • Yes, they could keep your device for further examination, which could include copying your data.

Things to Remember While Traveling

    • When traveling by air, TSA recommends that travelers carry their laptops on to their flights instead of placing them inside checked baggage.
      • A laptop, even if it is in a laptop bag, does not count as a flyer’s carry-on item. In addition to a traditional carry-on bag, flyers are also allowed to bring one extra item on to a flight with them.
    • Avoid using public workstations
      • Public workstations cannot be trusted. Anything entered into one of these systems – IDs, passwords, etc… may be captured and used.
    • When accessing any Colby College resource use VPN where allowed.
      • VPN access may be limited based upon where you are located, as some do not allow VPN access from their county or province.
    • Be aware of your surroundings when working on your devices.
      • Shoulder surfing is a common way in which people can learn your passwords and usernames.
    • In the event of a theft or lost device contact ITS Support.
      • Faculty and Staff may contact the Faculty/Staff Support Center at support@colby.edu or ext. 4222.
      • Students may contact Student Computer Services at scshelp@colby.edu or ext. 4224.

When you return back to campus

  • Change any passwords you used during your travel.
    • Upon returning home and returning your loaner device, change any passwords you used while you were traveling. Perform this from your normal Colby issued device