_YOUR PHONE CAN BE A LIFELINE WHILE YOU’RE TRAVELING ABROAD. That said, traveling with a phone introduces risks. These devices broadcast your location, contain sensitive call and chat logs, and are often tied to your real identity through purchase and contract details.
Consider two different approaches to preparing a mobile phone for travel abroad:
Prepare your everyday phone for abroad
One approach involves using a phone you already use, your everyday phone, while traveling. This approach is low-cost and convenient, but it also requires you to carry a critical part of your day-to-day life between your home base and high-risk field locations. If you go with this approach, you'll want to take extra care that you prepare your everyday phone to have only the data and apps you need while abroad, all while keeping a backup of your phone in its everyday state safe at home for when you return.
Prepare a dedicated, travel phone for abroad
The second approach involves purchasing a new device, or repurposing a usable device you have access to, and setting it up to strictly be used only during travel. This approach is ideal if you want to enforce a separation between your data at home and the data you need in the field.This will add cost and require time, but the risk of the data on your phone falling into the wrong hands often outweighs the investment.
Your choice of approach will depend on your risk assessment. We cover each approach in detail in our recommendations below.
_WHENEVER POSSIBLE, you should travel between borders with a device that contains the bare minimum of software and data.
There are two approaches to traveling abroad with a computer containing sensitive data. Your choice between the two will ultimately depend on your travel risk assessment.
Prepare your everyday computer for use abroad
Your first option is to prepare your everyday computer for use as a travel device, outfitted with specific files and apps. This approach takes some time to prepare, but comes at low financial cost. The major consideration in this approach is in the elevated risk of exposing sensitive data at a border crossing.
Prepare a dedicated travel computer for use abroad
Your second option is to invest in a new (or repurposed) computer that you prepare exclusively for work abroad. One way to reduce the financial cost is to repurpose an older computer. Using a separate device for travel is a strong protection against a data compromise if your devices are stolen or tampered with in transit. Your decision is determined by the risk to you and others – if the data on your computer could expose or harm a source, you have an obligation to protect that data.
“I never could stop production to focus on digital security. I tried to do smart things like back up my laptop before I traveled, and at a certain point I bought a cheap Chromebook so that if I was going out of the country I would travel with just my Chromebook and not my actual laptop.”
_IN ADDITION TO APPROVED TOOLS FOR SENSITIVE CONVERSATIONS, a complete travel communications plan will include recommendations for alternative platforms when your preferred one is unavailable, team check-in protocols, as well as codes and aliases to use over insecure channels. In some cases, you may also need to make new accounts to keep your travel activity separate and contained while abroad.