Table of Contents
Backup your devices before major travel
Even if you take regular, automated backups, consider a specific backup before you undertake major travel.
That way, if you lose your device, you know that you have a copy of your data (which is probably far more important than the hardware) for when you return.
Decide which devices go in hand luggage and which in the hold
Some people like to breeze onto a plane with nothing in their hands; others like everything onboard with them, so that they can make a swift exit.
Keeping all your electronics with you can be a bit of a pain (such as having to take them all out when you go through security at an airport. But if they are in your sight at all times, there's likely to be a lesser chance of them being stolen.
It may not always be your choice: planes in particular have limited cabin space and, if you're one of the last people to board, there may be no space for your bag. If you can, pack your electronics so that they fit under the seat in front of you, so you are not reliant on space in an overhead locker.
If you do have to put electronic devices which hold data in the hold, power it down, rather than just putting it in sleep mode, to maximise the protection afforded by full disk encryption.
Hopefully, you’ll have a strong password for the machine, and you won’t have it written on a sticky note attached to the machine.
Check the security situation before you travel
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website is a good source of safety information, especially if you're heading somewhere off the beaten path or if you are member of a vulnerable group.
However, even if you are going somewhere pretty common, take care. For example, some cities (such as Barcelona) are known for being particularly bad for pickpocket or distractions thefts, including mobile phones.
Protect your phone (and your bill) from theft
Losing your phone is an easy way to receive a large bill, even if no other security impact.
However, even if you have a PIN or passphrase or fingerprint, these will not stop someone from removing the SIM, putting it into another device, and making calls with it.
Use a SIM PIN
If you are going to a country with a high risk of phone theft, consider a SIM PIN. This is a PIN which you have to enter when rebooting a phone or putting the SIM into another phone before you can make a call.
Report theft or loss to your operator immediately
If your phone does get stolen, report it to your operator as quickly as possible, to lessen the chance of liability for any unauthorised use.
You might have lost two-factor authentication
If you use your phone for two-factor authentication (e.g. via SMS), you could be in a particularly difficult situation — without your SIM, you might be locked out of your bank, your social media accounts, and possibly even your mobile operator's online account.
Be wary of hotel safes
Does your hotel have a safe? Is it big enough for your laptop?
Still probably going to disclaim liability for loss form a hotel safe, but may be better than nothing. Consider taking your bag with you — although that brings its own risks, such as leaving it lying around, or having it taken from you.
Bear in mind that most hotels will have an override key for the “forgetful guest”, so don’t assume anything you put in the safe is secure from hotel staff. Even if your computer is still there when you get back, no guarantee someone with a key has not tampered with it.
Do not trust public USB charging ports
Minimise what you take
Do you need all your files with you?
It might be convenient to carry all your files. Other times, it might be worth just taking the bare minimum you need.
Could you travel with a machine with no files stored on it, and rely on secure remote access to your office systems, to access what you need?
If a device leaves your sight, consider it compromised
If someone takes your computer away from you, goodness knows what they are doing to it.
You might be fine, or you might now have a device under the keyboard keeping track of everything you type. Probably time for a new computer, and restore that from a backup you took before you left.
Consider putting nail polish over the screw holes on your device — that way, there's at least a chance you would be able to tell if someone has tried to unscrew your machine. However, if a machine has gone out of your sight, you're probably best treating it as compromised, and securely wiping it and getting rid of it.
Take particular care when crossing borders
Some countries (including the UK) give their border officials wide-ranging powers to search electronic devices, and to compel travellers to hand over their passwords.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some practical advice.
Turn off your devices completely if you are particularly concerned.
Consider turning off biometric authentication when you pass through a security check, as you may have more protection from being asked to reveal a password than being asked to unlock a device using a fingerprint or your face.
Be wary of trusting laptop security cables
These usually thin bits of cable might lessen the risk of a casual thief grabbing your computer from a coffee shop table, but they are unlikely to stop anyone who is determined: bolt cutters will get through most security cables with ease.
It's probably easier just to take your bag with you, even if it means finding another table.
Check if your devices are insured
It's probably a lot easier to replace a lost, stolen, or broken device, than it is to replace the data on it, but it's still not cheap, especially if travel with a phone, tablet, laptop, and selection of cables.
Check if you have any insurance which covers your devices while travelling. It might be part of your professional insurance, or some banks offer some forms of travel insurance as part of their account packages.
If you buy specific travel insurance, double-check that it covers business travel and business devices.
Make a note of the policy requirements before you leave, so that you know what information you need to collect (e.g. a police or crime reference number, in the event of a theft), and how and when to contact your insurance company.