Securing laptops while traveling
While traveling with laptops or other electronics (thumb drives, smartphones, tablets, etc.) that contain sensitive data, it is important to protect the equipment and the information that is stored there.
Whether you are traveling domestically or internationally or just bringing your laptop home to do work, you must take precautions to control sensitive information.
Having no sensitive information stored on your laptop while traveling would be ideal. In fact, according to LMS-PROC-244: Use of Mobile Devices Off-site, steps need to be taken to ensure sensitive data is not present on the laptop you will be taking when traveling internationally. Your Cyber Security Program Representative (CSPR) should verify that there is no controlled or sensitive information present on the system and that basic protections are in place before the laptop is taken out of the country. If traveling to a sensitive country, your CSPR should verify that you are supplied with a loaner laptop that contains no sensitive data.
Guidelines for protecting information on your laptop when traveling domestically:
- Use encryption software to store all data files in encrypted form. This will prevent disclosure of data in case the laptop is stolen.
- Use password protection.
- Use multi-factor authentication.
- Never keep passwords or access numbers on the machine or in the case.
- Back up all files before traveling.
- Use a lock, key or biometric identification device to prevent unauthorized use.
- Use tracers that identify the location of a stolen laptop. When the stolen laptop is connected to the Internet, it transmits a signal to a monitoring station
Guidelines for protecting your laptop:
- Do not leave your laptop in a car. If this is unavoidable, lock the laptop in the trunk of the vehicle where it is out of sight. Do so prior to reaching your destination.
- Never let your laptop out of your sight in an airport or other public area. If you set it down while checking in at the airport counter or hotel registration desk, lean it against your leg so that you can feel its presence, or hold it between your feet.
- Disguise your laptop. The distinctive size and shape of a laptop computer make it an easily spotted target for thieves. Consider using a bag that does not look like a computer case.
- When going through airport security, do not place your laptop on the conveyor belt until you are sure no one in front of you is being delayed. If you are delayed while passing through the checkpoint, maintain visual contact of your laptop.
- When traveling by plane or train, do not place your laptop in checked baggage.
- If your departure is delayed and you are directed to deplane and wait in the terminal, take your laptop with you.
- Never store a laptop in an airport or train station locker.
- Avoid leaving your laptop in a hotel room.
For more information on sensitive information and additional references for specific protection requirements, see LMS-POL-19: Protection of National Security and Other U.S. Interests.
The Operations Security (OPSEC) program at Argonne is in place to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information. For more information on OPSEC, visit Inside Argonne.