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7 tech tips for 'tute travelers
March 20, 2018
Phil Johnson
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laptop and luggage
Image: Phil Johnson

MIT’s Spring Break is coming up next week! If you're planning to travel during the break and are bringing along a computer, laptop, or smartphone, here are some easy things to do before you leave to make your computing experiences away from campus as smooth and safe as possible. All of these products and services are made available to MIT community members for free by Information Systems and Technology (IS&T).

1. Get your device tagged

If your laptop and/or tablet doesn't have a STOP Theft tag on it, then go to the Atlas Service Center today and get one before you leave!

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These tags are highly visible deterrents to thieves. But don't just take our word for it; listen to the following true story about the time STOP tags prevented some MIT laptops from being stolen.

BTW, STOP tags can also be applied to other devices, like for example, that oscilloscope you'll no doubt be traveling with.

You can get your device tagged for FREE at the IS&T Service Desk in the Atlas Service Center, E17-106, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2. Pick up a YubiKey

You should have more than one device registered for use with Duo two-factor authentication. YubiKeys are a great option in case your primary device goes AWOL. They also work without Wi-Fi or cell service, so they're particularly good for use overseas to make sure you can always connect to MIT websites and services.

We now also have USB-C YubiKeys!

You can request a YubiKey online or stop by the IS&T Service Desk in the Atlas Service Center in E17-106 to get one for no charge.

3. Use the MIT VPN

MIT's Virtual Private Network will give you access to all of the resources on MITnet while you are traveling.

Even if you don't need access to MIT resources, it's still a good idea to always connect to the MIT VPN when on public (non-secure) Wi-Fi networks, as it will ensure all of your activity is encrypted and private. When using free Wi-Fi, you just can't be too careful.

You can download the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client for your laptop. There are also mobile versions of the Cisco client for use with your phone or tablet (check your app store).

Once you've got the Cisco VPN client installed, learn how to connect to the MIT VPN using Duo two-factor authentication.

All of this, of course, is available to you as an MIT community member for the grand total of... nothing!

4. Encrypt your data

Whole disk encryption will protect all the data on your disk drive, making it a lot harder for evil-doers to get at it, even if they manage to get their hands on your machine while you are, say, sunning yourself on some remote beach. Enable it now, for you and your loved ones.

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Learn how to enable BitLocker encryption on your Windows machine with this article in the IS&T Knowledge Base (KB) or how to enable FileVault encryption on your Mac. No need to take your wallet out, because this is all available to you gratis.

5. Wall off your files

Your computer's operating system comes with a personal firewall, which you should enable to help prevent unauthorized access to the files on your computer. The best part is, unlike other walls, this one comes with you when you travel.

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It's really easy to turn on the firewall on your Windows computer, or on your Mac, or on your Red Hat Linux machine - no credit card, cash, or Bitcoin required.

6. Install anti-virus software

Hopefully, you've already done this but if not, install anti-virus software before you head to the airport! It'll help protect your computer from viruses, malware, adware, and other evil wares. Think of it like a flu shot for for your laptop, minus the boo-boo bandage.

MIT community members can download Sophos anti-virus from the IS&T software grid. Cost: $0.

7. Back up your device

Be sure to back up your phone or tablet before leaving, just in case something, um, unexpected happens to it.

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For computer backups, MITers have access to CrashPlan, a cloud based service, which will come in handy if your laptop does get stolen or meets an untimely demise while you're away from home.

Download CrashPlan now from the IS&T software grid and back up your laptop before you leave town, all for (again) no charge!

Further help

For a more in-depth list of technology tips for travelers, check out this page in the IS&T Knowledge Base.

If you have questions or need help with any of these things, contact the IS&T Service Desk.

Happy (and safe) travels!