High Risk Countries

IMPORTANT: The State Department has currently issued many "Level 3: Reconsider Travel" & "Level 4: Do Not Travel" warnings due to COVID-19.

If you are travelling to a high risk country, please make sure you consider what you are taking. We will discuss the best options for some of the most common devices, ranked from “best” to “minimum”

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 leaving your devices here and checking out a loaner kit from the Belk library. The library provides loaner kits that are ready to use and do not put the data you have stored on your own devices at risk. 

  • Good: Travel with less data
    If you feel you need to take your own laptop, consider backing up all data you do not need on your trip, removing the data from your device, and reloading it when you return. You can consult with our IT support services to assist you with this process. If possible, leave your USB drives at home. They are easily lost and easily corrupted. If you must travel with a USB device, make sure that it is encrypted.

  • Minimum: Travel encrypted
    If you must travel with your own device, please follow the steps below to ensure your device is adequately protect.
  1. Verify with IT support services that your computer software is current.
  2. Make sure your computer is fully backed up and encrypted (consult with IT support services).
  3. Remove any documents containing Moderate or High Risk data from your computer.
  4. 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
    Consider whether you really need your mobile phone. Will you be making calls? Can you get by with a wi-fi only device (such as an iPad)? Can you get by without a phone for your trip? We are really tied to our phones these days, but perhaps it is better if you can go without travelling to a high risk country.

  • Good: Get it there
    The next best thing is to use a “burner” (a device you will not use again). This can be a loaner phone borrowed in the country of destination, an unlocked phone with a local SIM card, or a phone you buy or rent at the airport or hotel.

  • Minimum: Have a plan
    If you must use your own phone:
    • Back it up before you leave
    • Enroll it in an international rate plan to avoid incurring exorbitant roaming charges
    • Save your data, reset to factory defaults, and restore your backup when you return.

China: a special travel situation

What to expect while you’re traveling to the People's Republic of China:

  • Access to services that we take for granted like Gmail, 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.
    NOTE: When travelling to China, a device is under your “effective control” only when it is on your person. Any time a device is unattended, it is no longer under your effective control!