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Tips to Reduce Computer Security Risks While Traveling Internationally

International travel to certain sensitive countries is automatically routed to the Export Control Office through the travel approval system in IRIS. These are the countries that are generally subject to embargoes or restrictions from one or more of the export control agencies.

The review process includes the following:

  • The stated purpose and field of study for the travel is reviewed, as well as sponsored research associated with the travelers, to ensure that no export controlled or restricted information is taken out of the U.S. in violation of export control laws;
  • All institutions named in the travel description are screened against the export control restricted/denied party listings; if there is a listing, the traveler is notified- depending on the specific listing, additional precautions and restrictions may be required;
  • If the travel involves one of the “comprehensively embargoed” countries (currently Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria) a special license may be required. The traveler will be contacted to determine whether a General License is applicable, or if a request for a Specific License is needed.
  • If specialized equipment is listed in the travel description, a review of the Commerce Control List is done to determine if there are any restrictions for the destination countries. If needed, the license exception for temporary export (TMP) can usually be used to take the item without an export control license.

International travel can have computer security risks in addition to the usual export control risks. When travelling, consider these tips to minimize your IT security risks:

  • Take a “clean” laptop or other electronic device (one that does not contain any business or personal data);
  • Make sure you have updated your device with the most recent malware, antivirus, and security software;
  • Remove university and personal data that you don’t need for your trip. Ask yourself: Can I afford to lose it or have it stolen? Is financial risk or risk to your reputation worth it? If not, leave it at home;
  • Remove proprietary, confidential, export controlled, or otherwise sensitive data form your devices before you go.
  • Remove encryption software, other than system critical software (built in Windows encryption for example). Encryption technologies are strictly controlled in China, and Border Security can confiscate devices with unauthorized encryption technology.
  • Wi-Fi networks are not always secure. Avoid unknown third-party providers and publically available connections.
  • Use VPN (if operable).
  • Don’t use unknown devices such as USB/flash drives (malicious code would be installed on such devices).
  • Upon return, Have IT scan your devices for malware before reconnecting them to the university network.

If you have additional information or specific questions about your upcoming travel, you can contact Dairin Mailkemus in the Export Control Office (dmalkemu@utk.edu or 865-974-0232).