Several divisions within Amherst College travel internationally throughout the year. As part of completing preparations for the trip, travelers may have questions about what computing devices or software they can bring with them depending on export controls that may apply to the country of destination and upon return, the United States. Information Technology can help determine what technology can be exported and can assist with the steps necessary to prepare technology devices prior to the departure date.


The topic of export controls is extensive, and the scope of this guide is strictly related with commodity computing devices, the protection of computing devices, and the data in computing devices. If you plan to travel internationally and need to carry other devices such as special cameras, scientific instruments, or other devices specifically related with your field of work, please ask us and we will facilitate other resources available on campus.

What kind of assistance does IT provide?

Depending on the country of destination, IT can provide the following:

  • Encrypted, portable computer needed for the trip, separate from the employee’s primary computer:
    • Lightweight laptop: Mac (macOS), PC (Windows), or Chromebook (Chrome OS)
    • Hard drive encryption depends on the country of destination.
  • Advice on keeping your technology devices safe while traveling (iPad, iPhone, portable drives, among others).
  • Referral to other resources based on other devices you may need to carry with you.

How can I request a loaner laptop for travel?

You may fill out the form located through AskIT. Alternatively, you can contact us, x2526 or, as soon as you have a departure date. Please provide the following information:

  • Departure Date
  • Country or countries employee(s) will visit
  • List of technology items needed during the trip: laptop, tablet, phone, portable drives, etc.
  • Software required for the trip
  • Return Date

We will prepare your devices for travel and contact you for delivery or pickup. We will also contact you on your return date.

How long will IT need to prepare my devices?

Although we may be able to turn around equipment relatively quickly, we request at least one week’s advance notice so we can prepare and thoroughly test the computing devices you plan to take during your trip. You will also need time to store any data you may need during your trip on the device. You will only want to copy the data you need during the trip on the loaner device. In the event that the laptop is lost, stolen, or confiscated at customs, this will minimize the amount of data loss.

I'm traveling to a country or region where Google access is restricted.  What should I do?

Google services are restricted in certain countries or regions, such as China, Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Before visiting these areas, we recommend you forward your account to an account at AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo or another service widely-used in the country you will be visiting.

In China, QQ mail and 163/126 mail are good options for forwarding your email, along with AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo. Be sure to set up your email forwarding before you leave the U.S. to ensure continuity of service.

Are there any absolute restrictions?

The Wassenaar Arrangement was created by a group of nations to negotiate people who travel with devices that use encryption. As of April 2018, participating countries include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. When traveling outside of these countries, we will be limited in the type of encryption which we can offer. Please visit Google Maps for an interactive map that offers more detailed information about each country. We can provide an unencrypted laptop in which you can store limited data that you will need for your trip. For an up-to-date list of countries, please refer to the Wassenaar Agreement website.

As of April 2018, we cannot encrypt computing devices for travel to the following sanctioned destinations:

  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Sudan
  • Syria

What happens if I travel to a location that does not permit encrypted computing devices?

Please comply with requests from customs officials to unlock a device for inspection (you enter your credentials to unlock the device or log in). If the customs official asks for the username and password to unlock the device, you can explain that it contains confidential information from the College, but oftentimes international customs official can demand you provide the username and password or the official may seize the device and you may be denied access to the country.

If your credentials match your Amherst College account, you will want to reset the password on your Amherst College account by visiting the password reset site as soon as feasible. You may contact us at 413-542-2526, if you need any assistance.

What should I do when I return from my trip?

You will want to contact us for assistance with safely removing the data from the computing devices you used during your trip. You may contact us at x2526. We will run an antivirus scan on the files before copying them over to other devices. After safely copying your files to your computer of choice, we will sanitize the devices you used and prepare them for the next scheduled trip.

You will also want to reset the password on your Amherst College account by visiting the password reset site as soon as you arrive. You may contact us at x2526, if you need any assistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

This is a list of common questions that travelers have. If your question is not answered below, please contact us so that we can provide assistance and perhaps add your question to this list.

My computer, phone, tablet, or USB drive was lost or stolen. What should I do?

Inform the embassy for assistance with local authorities, and also inform John Carter, Chief of Police at Amherst College at (413) 542-2291.

Should I use any public Wireless Network available?

You should only use wireless networks that you trust. For example, many hotels will inform you upon arrival of the network name and passcode for the wireless network available at their location. You will want to verify that the name matches the network name that the hotel has provided to you as you connect to the wireless network.

You should also use the Amherst VPN, when possible, in combination with a trusted wireless network. This will allow your Internet communications to be fully encrypted; however, some countries prevent the use of VPN technology, so it may not be possible in all situations.

Why shouldn’t I bring my regular computer when I travel?

Existing data on the computer used daily poses a high risk of exposure should the computer be lost, stolen, or broken into.

How can I protect my cell phone?
Here are a couple of tips to safeguard your phone:

  • Make use of a longer passcode with a combination of numbers and letters;
  • Disable bluetooth, WiFi hotspot;
  • Do not open/answer text messages from unknown sources;
  • Keep your phone in sight at all times;
  • Be discreet when using your phone in public locations.

What risk(s) is the College trying to avoid?

The College is trying to avoid loss of data that is not relevant to the trip. We cannot fully protect against the loss of data available in a loaner computer, but if the data available on the loaner computer is limited to what is needed for the trip, it minimizes the risk of exposure to the College should the data be lost or stolen.

Another benefit of a loaner computer is that we avoid issues with import/export controls on software, and encryption available on computers used full-time. For example, in late 2014 we began an initiative to encrypt all laptop computers provided to faculty and staff. Those computers should not travel to countries that are not part of the Wassenaar Arrangement (see above). In addition, some software titles contain language in the EULA limiting their export to other countries. We can help navigate those details as we prepare loaner computers for travel.

There may be other considerations for which we can provide guidance, so please ask and we will facilitate other resources available on campus.

What if I need access to my data (research or other)?
(VPN + WebDAV or File Shares?) Try to limit the need to access remote resources while travelling by bringing the materials you need on the local storage of the device/s you are bringing. If you must connect to college managed services, always connect using the Amherst VPN to assure the best security. We offer multiple ways to access network storage in the event that you need to access specific data that you may have not brought with you to your trip.

Can I transmit files via email?
E-mail is a very insecure way to transmit files - always use an alternative when you can, and never use email to share files with sensitive data in them. Depending on the sensitivity of the data, Dropbox and Google Drive will be better options.

What files/data should I take with me when I travel?
Regardless of whether you travel with an encrypted computer or not, you should limit the amount of data that could be potentially exposed should a device be lost, stolen, or confiscated by customs. We recommend you take only the data that you will need during your trip.

Articles for Reference

Crypto Law Survey

Current Travel Warnings
US Department of State

Designing IT Guidelines for Global Travel
Educause Review

Sanctioned Destinations
US Bureau of Industry and Security

Revision History

Released: August 31, 2015
Updated: April 16, 2018