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Recommendations for Travelers to High Risk Countries

High risk countries

Travel to High Risk Countries requires special consideration and preparation. Let’s start with what you’re taking with you. It’s important to take the minimum you need in order to get your work done while you’re gone. There are a range of options starting with the most secure and going down the minimum required actions.


Best: Travel light

We strongly recommend that you leave your current devices here and travel with a Stanford-provided Travel Loaner kit. You can borrow a kit by requesting one. Use the iPad Pro, Macbook Pro, or Surface Pro instead of your laptop; it will allow you to manage email, view your calendar, run presentations, edit documents, and connect to university websites. The devices are set up specifically for your use and wiped back to factory settings when you return. The iPad uses Stanford’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) service to encrypt the device and provide you with a secure platform for the duration of your travel.

Good: Travel with less data

If you don’t feel that you can travel without a full laptop, another option is to take a new or freshly rebuilt machine and load only the data you’ll need for this trip. You’ll need to make sure that the machine is encrypted (use University IT's SWDE service) before you go. Consult with our help desk for assistance. Whenever possible, leave USB drives at home. These are easily lost and easily corrupted. If you must travel with a USB device, be sure that it’s encrypted.

Minimum: Travel encrypted

If you can’t travel with an iPad or a new computer and must take your own laptop, there are some additional steps you need to take before you go:

When you return, save the documents you created while traveling to another device, completely wipe your computer, and restore it from the backup made before your travel.

Mobile phones

Best: Go without

The first thing to consider is whether you really need a mobile phone. Are you going to make calls? Can you get by with a Wi-Fi-only device like the iPad travel kit provided by Stanford? Can you get by without a phone for a short trip? We’re really tied to our phones these days, but perhaps you can go without.

Good: Get it there

The best thing to do is to use a device you don’t need to use again. This can be a loaner phone borrowed in the country, an unlocked phone with a local SIM card, or a phone you buy or rent at the airport or hotel when you arrive.

Minimum: Have a plan

If you must use your own phone:

  • Back it up before you leave,
  • Secure it by enrolling in Stanford's Mobile Device Management (MDM) program,
  • Enroll it in an international rate plan to avoid incurring exorbitant roaming charges, and
  • Save your data, reset to factory defaults, and restore your backup when you return.

Planning ahead will protect your privacy and the University's data, and save a lot of money and frustration later.

Additional information

Before you go

While you’re traveling

  • Do not plug your phone into charger kiosks. There may be a hostile computer on the other end of that innocent-looking wire.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for those looking over your shoulder or potential thieves.
  • Do not leave your devices unattended. Even hotel safes are not secure.

When you return

China: a special travel situation

What to expect while you’re traveling

Travelers to the People's Republic of China have experienced a range of issues.

  • Access to services that we take for granted like Gmail and other Google apps, Wikipedia, and Yahoo Web Mail are often blocked altogether or filtered.
  • Skype connections may be monitored by the government.
  • Those using VPNs reported that they are often cut off for hours at a time.
  • Hotel staff and government officials can access hotel room safes, so don't expect that a computer or mobile device left in a hotel safe will be secure.
Last modified November 14, 2018