International travel can be a risky undertaking. This is especially true for government employees. In addition to physical risks such as theft, loss, and damage of devices, foreign travelers are susceptible to social engineering techniques and a wide range of cyberattacks. Government employees are favorite targets of nation-state hackers and cyber criminals.
State and personal devices can contain sensitive information, which may be valuable to such actors to sell or to use in intelligence operations. Thus, it is imperative as an employee of the State of North Dakota to exercise due diligence in protecting sensitive data. While travelling abroad, you are responsible for the security of data!
The guidelines apply to any State employee who must travel to a foreign country with a state-owned device (e.g., work laptop) and/or a personal device with access to state data (e.g., personal cell phone used for work).
Note: The State of North Dakota restricts employees from taking state devices out of the country while travelling for personal reasons unless approved by the employee’s agency.
Prior to Departure
Take proactive steps to secure your devices and your personally identifiable information (such as your name, address, date of birth and Social Security Number) before you travel. Leave at home any electronic equipment you don't need during your travel. If you take it, protect it. Be sure to:
- Back up your personal devices
- Consider using a burner device and not taking your primary equipment
- Install encrypted text messaging app (e.g., Signal, etc.) for phones if texting is needed
- Remove sensitive data
- Ensure passwords are complex, and do not use the same password for multiple sites
- Confirm antivirus software is up-to-date
- Have your manager or agency’s HR department submit a ServiceNow incident ticket to the NDIT Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) team on your behalf, at least two weeks prior to travel, indicating:
- your destination
- dates of departure and return
- hotel name(s), address(s), and phone number(s), and
- which device(s) you will be taking out of the country
NDIT GRC will notify NDIT Cyber Analysis and Response of your travel plans to ensure that you retain access to your device while travelling. Desktop Support will ensure “Always on VPN” is configured on the state-owned device and hard drive is encrypted.
Be vigilant about your surroundings and where and how you use your devices. Make sure to keep your devices secure in public places such as airports, hotels and restaurants. Take care that nobody is trying to steal information from you by spying on your device screen while it is in use.
You are especially vulnerable in locations with public Wi-Fi, including:
Internet cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, travel agencies, clinics, libraries, airports and hotels.
- Do not trust public Wi-Fi
- Do not use the same passwords or PIN numbers abroad that you use in the United States
- Never use public Wi-Fi to make online purchases or access bank accounts.
Always use a VPN
- Do not use texting to send sensitive information. Consider using an encrypted App such as “Signal”
- Avoid using public equipment – such as phones, computers and fax machines – for sensitive communications
- Keep your device(s) in a locked safe or locked suitcase when leaving your hotel room
- Refrain from logging into social media accounts
- Do not draw excessive attention to yourself. Do your best to blend in and keep a low profile
- Be mindful of what you say and do in public spaces—especially while using your device
Upon return to the United States, wipe all personal devices to remove any malware that may have been placed on your devices.
If you have traveled abroad for business with state-owned equipment, contact the security team to investigate your work device(s) for threats and malware.