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Securing Your Notebook Against US Customs

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the best-interests-at-heart dept.

Privacy 1021

Nethemas the Great points out a piece from Bruce Schneier running in the UK's Guardian newspaper with some tips for international travelers on securing notebook computers for border crossings. A taste of the brief article: "Last month a US court ruled that border agents can search your laptop, or any other electronic device, when you're entering the country. They can take your computer and download its entire contents, or keep it for several days. ... Encrypting your entire hard drive, something you should certainly do for security in case your computer is lost or stolen, won't work here. The border agent is likely to start this whole process with a 'please type in your password.' Of course you can refuse, but the agent can search you further, detain you longer, refuse you entry into the country and otherwise ruin your day."

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Dual Boot (4, Interesting)

Rycross (836649) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419286)

Set up a Windows partition and a Linux partition, set it to boot to Windows by default, keep all your data on the Linux partition. How well would that work, I wonder.

Re:Dual Boot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419332)

are border agents so dumb to not diferentiate a dual boot from a simple windows ?

Re:Dual Boot (5, Funny)

krog (25663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419404)

Of course not. The Department of Homeland Security doesn't hire any lower than a Master's degree.

Re:Dual Boot (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419462)

Yup. Set the GRUB timeout to 0; you can only boot Linux iff you hold escape.

Re:Dual Boot (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419492)

are border agents so dumb to not diferentiate a dual boot from a simple windows ?
Probably

Re:Dual Boot (2, Interesting)

lorenzino (1130749) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419360)

How well ? Good enough. They don't have any clue what linux is. They don't have any IT degree right ? Actually, if they even *SEE* linux they might think you are a terrorist/communist/american_favourite_evil. So yeah, I like your idea. Also, I suggest truecrypt with the drive within the drive .. that gives you deniability, doesn't it ?

Re:Dual Boot (5, Insightful)

electrictroy (912290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419706)

>>>"The border agent is likely to start this whole process with a 'please type in your password.' Of course you can refuse, but the agent can search you further, detain you longer, refuse you entry into the country and otherwise ruin your day."

Sounds like a small price to pay in order to protect my right to liberty. Just because the government demands access does not mean I have to comply.

Other people have paid a far higher price for liberty ("the full measure of devotion" aka death).

Re:Dual Boot (4, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419374)

If they choose to store the contents of your hard drive for later analysis, not at all. Nor will it protect you against minimally-clever forensics tools.

It depends on what, in particular, you're concerned about. As far as I know, they don't currently routinely search laptops, so it'd be speculation to guess at what a routine search they don't do would miss.

Re:Dual Boot (5, Insightful)

Altus (1034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419570)

if your under suspicion for who you are then you are pretty well fucked. But if your just worried about a random security search and wanting to keep certain data private you only need to get past that first step because they will not spend the money to dig deeper even if they do copy your hard drive.

if you are a known individual (person of interest) and you expect to be stopped at the border, don't carry sensitive material with you. Hell, just mail a flash drive.

Re:Dual Boot (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419408)

Likely "pretty good". It all depends on how nosy the Customs Agents want to be. The vast majority of the time, they just stare at the laptop, maybe make you boot it (but that's TSA's responsibility, really) and let you wander off. The issue is that you don't know when the Agent 1) had a bad night 2) thinks you're a smartass / druggie / on The List or 3) anything else (no probable cause here).

If they want to clone your hard drive and disassemble it later, your secondary boot OS is going to stick out. Not that it is unusual for anyone to have more than one OS on a hard drive, but it won't be hidden. Remember, they essentially have physical control of the computer. "They" win. Unfortunately, it comes down to 1) security by obscurity or 2) nothing to hide.

Roll up your sleeves and bend over.

Depends upon how proficient they are. (4, Informative)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419436)

They can also image your drive. As Bruce says, the easiest way to avoid this is to not have your data on your laptop. Put it on something else.

Re:Dual Boot (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419532)

Works very well. I had to set this up due to being detained at the border for several hours because they didn't know linux. They keep the laptop, computer plus some external drives and let me go. Still working on getting them back, hence anonymously. Bought a new laptop after that, set up the dual-boot with short times to select something other then windows and no log-in required. Been inspected several times after that with no problems.

Not dual boot; the network IS the computer (4, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419642)

Set up a Windows partition and a Linux partition, set it to boot to Windows by default, keep all your data on the Linux partition. How well would that work, I wonder.
Probably pretty well unless they're doing full-disk imaging, in which case the Linux partition is still in their hands when you walk away. Best thing to do is not to take a *computer* with you when you travel, but rather take a *terminal* with you (or find one), and use a secure connection to your computer, safely still at home, and then access your data, accounts, apps, etc. over that secure connection.

Re:Dual Boot (2, Informative)

quentin_quayle (868719) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419742)

Set up a Windows partition and a Linux partition, set it to boot to Windows by default, keep all your data on the Linux partition. How well would that work, I wonder.

Better: set up dual boot, and hide lilo or grub. Have it wait for a moment between BIOS and default OS, and if you press a certain F key combination it shows the choice; otherwise it goes right into innocent, typical-seeming Windows installation.

You'd still be subject to either having to unencrypt your real data or having the notebook confiscated if you refuse, if this is discovered - but if they don't know to look at the disk display applet in Windows, it's unlikely to be discovered. And you can disable that applet.

This is why you make sure... (5, Funny)

The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419302)

...that your desktop is the Goatse guy and you have 14 videos of horse porn set to auto-play the moment your laptop gets opened. If you're going to snoop through my stuff in public, then the whole terminal is gonna get their money's worth, you fascist bully-boys.

Re:This is why you make sure... (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419426)

I hope you enjoy sitting in the tiny cold waiting room at the border, because you're going to be there a good long while. And don't think you'll be able to play games on your computer to pass the time either.

Re:This is why you make sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419770)

Transporting ANY kind of porn across a country border is usually illegal.

If someone were to actually do that their ass could soon be used as the new goatse.

Re:This is why you make sure... (5, Funny)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419630)

And in addition the sound must be played at maximum volume. Including the "TaDa [bedug.com] " in Windows or some other classic clip; "Computer Standing By... [bedug.com] "

But I think that "1 minute to auto-destruct [bedug.com] " can be a bit too bad.

Re:This is why you make sure... (5, Funny)

Meriahven (1154311) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419736)

Security by obscenity?

embolden? (0)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419322)

That's so 15th century, Bruce. How about "encourage"?

Re:embolden? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419362)

I prefer the term "embiggens".

Re:embolden? (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419712)

it's a perfectly cromulent word

Re:embolden? (2, Informative)

indifferent children (842621) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419738)

That's cromulent.

TrueCrypt (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419330)

http://www.truecrypt.org/

        * Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.

        * Encrypts an entire partition or storage device such as USB flash drive or hard drive.

        * Encrypts a partition or drive where Windows is installed (pre-boot authentication).

        * Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent.

        * Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password:

            1) Hidden volume (steganography â" more information may be found here).

            2) No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data).

        * Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS.

Re:TrueCrypt (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419682)

People here keep talking about encrypting your files. Fine, but the second the Customs Guy figures out you have encrypted content on your laptop, you can kiss it good bye. They *will* keep it. You may not see it again for several years.

If you're going to carry stuff over the border you don't wan't The Man to look at, put it on a thumb drive and attach it to your keys.

Mess with them (5, Funny)

loafula (1080631) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419348)

Make a folder called "Terror Plans" and fill it with images of cute, cuddly kittens.

Re:Mess with them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419596)

They would just spend 10 years and 2 billion dollars trying to decrypt the kitten images - all the while you'd spend that time in Guantonamo.

No thanks on that!

On a side note - I wonder how many people from the NSA or other federal agencies are reading this very thread and devising ways to specifically identify each solution presented. OMFG WHERE'S MY TINFOIL HAT!

Not enitrely true... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419364)

Last month a US court ruled that border agents can search your laptop, or any other electronic device, when you're entering the country.

As they should be able to. Any sovereign nation has the right to control who and what enters the country.

They can ... keep it for several days.

No, that would be seizing it. They need a reason to seize it. Customs can search without cause, but they cannot seize things without cause.

The border agent is likely to start this whole process with a 'please type in your password.' Of course you can refuse, but the agent can search you further, detain you longer, refuse you entry into the country and otherwise ruin your day."

Not entering your password is not grounds to refuse you entry into the country. On the other hand, lying to US customs IS grounds to ban you from entering the USA for five years.

Re:Not enitrely true... (2, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419456)

But if they have the right to search it and you refuse to cooperate, then what choices do they have other than to seize the laptop (arguably you've given them cause by refusing to cooperate) or refuse you entry?

Otherwise what you're saying is that they have the right to search it, you have the right to refuse, and they have no legal powers to try to enforce their right - in other words, they don't have the right at all.

Re:Not enitrely true... (4, Insightful)

Altus (1034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419606)


I have been denied access to countries for less than not providing a password. They can pretty much turn you away because they feel like it.

Re:Not enitrely true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419710)

As they should be able to. Any sovereign nation has the right to control who and what enters the country.

Do you think they should have the right to open and read the personal letters that you send back and forth to your friends or family members overseas?

Re:Not enitrely true... (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419764)

On the other hand, lying to US customs IS grounds to ban you from entering the USA for five years.

I feel comfortable (based on SlashDemographics) saying that most of us discussing this have US citizenship, so they can't really ban us from entering.

Thus, you need only "plausible deniability", such as a hidden truecrypt volume.

Yup (4, Insightful)

alexborges (313924) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419370)

I got it in my biweekly dose of Cryptogram and found it disheartening. The GOD of security says: all you can do is make sure they wont find anything that will mess you up.

The sad thing is that citizens think this idiotic idea of checking laptops at airports serve any kind of law enforcement objective other than generalized panic and further diminishment of democratic values such as the right to privacy.

This is your government fucking people up (and "people" can be foreigners or locals entering the country), attempting to find in informations traces of delincuent activity that, if youre a two bit moron you know you can save it anyhow, in a mostly anonymous fashion on google's, yahoo's or microsoft's servers for free, and any number of services that are available today.

True criminals simply have huge botnets and hidden servers behind the huge pr0n/spam nets and they DO NOT carry incriminating evidence with them and EVEN IF THEY DID, how in hell is a custom's agent going to find them?

I mean, i have a better solution than that of bruce: change your initab so initdefault is 3, make sure that that level does NOT turn on the wifi card or any networking at all, change your shell to ASH (hopefully temporarilly) and let them have the root password, who cares.... good luck, mister customs agent.

Re:Yup (1)

teslar (706653) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419476)

Yeah, that was my initial thought too. But on further reflection, what exactly do you think will happen in that case? My money's on:

Customs agent: Darn, I don't know how to use this.
You: *snicker*
Customs agent: I am confiscating this device. Would you mind stepping this way, please, sir. You are detained for further questioning.

Re:Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419586)

The sad thing is that citizens think this idiotic idea of checking laptops at airports serve any kind of law enforcement objective

There have been real cases of people crossing the border with illegal content (ie child porn) on their laptops. Do you think you are entitled to cross the border with child porn? In case you didn't know, child porn is illegal in many countries, including the USA.

That being said, the vast majority of people at border crossings are 100% legitimate & not breaking any laws. Customs still has the right to search you, your vehicle, and your accompanying goods.

other than generalized panic and further diminishment of democratic values such as the right to privacy.

There has never been a right to privacy when crossing the border. Customs has always had the right to search you, your vehicle, your accompanying goods, levy applicable taxes/duties and seize contraband. Every sovereign nation has this right.

This is your government ... attempting to find in informations traces of delincuent activity that, if youre a two bit moron you know you can save it anyhow, in a mostly anonymous fashion on google's, yahoo's or microsoft's servers for free, and any number of services that are available today.

So? They still catch criminals that way.

Just about everyone has heard of fingerprints. The fact that smarter criminals wear gloves or wipe off things they touch doesn't mean that police should stop looking for fingerprints - many criminals still get caught that way.

Re:Yup (2, Insightful)

squidfood (149212) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419656)

further diminishment of democratic values such as the right to privacy.

I'm as libertarian free-rights paranoid as the next slashdotter (while not quite), but a healthy dose of history here. Customs, border crossings, etc. have never had anything to do with democratic values, check out all your local 17th century smuggling legends sometime. There's never been anything there to diminish.

Picking battles, I'd concentrate on what happens internally, domestic flights, internal travel, etc. and not worry about this one so much (cue "thin end of the wedge" argument).

A naive suggestion (4, Insightful)

rumith (983060) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419378)

  1. Upload all of your data on a web host with SFTP support and lots of bandwidth.
  2. Purge your hard drive.
  3. Be politeness incarnate to the customs officer and get through fast.
  4. Once inside, use any available network at your disposal to download all of your data back.

The downsides? You probably won't be able to work in the airplane, but is it worth it now that the Customs are being so much trouble?

Re:A naive suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419554)

That is essentially what the article suggests.

Re:A naive suggestion (2, Informative)

rcamans (252182) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419560)

You could probably load all your work on a usb drive? then have a clean laptop, and slide thru?

My laptop (5, Funny)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419380)

Is set to boot MS-DOS by default.

It's actually because I need to load a device management driver that overrides the BIOS data for the hard disk, but it may actually be worth it for them to try to fiddle around at the MS-DOS prompt...

Re:My laptop (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419746)

They won't be fiddling with MSDOS, you will... or else. same with passwords, encrypted data etc. as far as they are concerned, it's not the obstacle, you are.

He used tinyurl for a link, WTF? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419382)

[...] Details are too complicated for a quick tip, but basically anything easy to remember is easy to guess. (My advice is at tinyurl.com/4f8z4n.) [...]

Why the hell is a security expert using tinyurl links on the web?!? The only use of URL shortening services on web pages is for malware authors and spammers to hide the destination site.

remote storage... (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419386)

Anything you don't want to find, host it on a remote server that you access with SSHFS or something similar.

Some people swear by services like Amazon's AWS via JungleDisk or something similar, but of course then you have to trust Amazon. My system's pretty clean, but I often keep a port open on my home network with a server (an old G4) running there for just this purpose.

Re:remote storage... (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419496)

That's a good idea, but in my experience I'm not always able to use VPNs or nonstandard TCP ports while I'm using a hotel's internet access. It might be prudent to simply upload your sensitive stuff to Google Apps before your flight, work on it locally while you're out of town, and then zap it back up to Apps before you return home.

Fading memory (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419406)

I can't recall the name right now but one of the disk encryption utilities creates a dummy encrypted zone for just such a purpose. You make two passwords. The real one gets you your real encrypted data. And another one for entering under "duress" gets you your dummy files. They're both stored in the same encrypted space, one looks like random noise to the other, and supposedly nobody can tell they're both there. Anybody know which utility that was?

Re:Fading memory (1)

querist (97166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419628)

Truecrypt.

There may be others, but I know truecrypt fits your description.

Re:Fading memory (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419690)

That's an interesting idea, though I've never heard of it, and the challenges for it seem that they would be significant, though not insurmountable. Might also be nice if it had a feature to maybe even destroy the real data when the "duress" password is entered.

One more reason not to fly. (3, Insightful)

AmazingRuss (555076) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419410)

I quit flying a couple years ago after being repeatedly hassled by TSA troglodytes. Looks like I may never get to fly again. Maybe if enough of us stop flying, the airline industry will set its lobbyists to get this fixed. Chances are slim though. Why lobby to get your customers back when you can just lobby for handouts?

Re:One more reason not to fly. (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419790)

I've been lucky, knock on wood. The only time I was really hassled was one day when apparently they had an alert to watch for someone with my birth date. Even then, it wasn't a huge deal; I just had to verify all sorts of information about myself so they would be sure that it wasn't someone with a forged or stolen passport trying to get through. Some friends of mine from Germany, however, got hassled a lot traveling in the US after 9/11; since several of the hijackers had come to the US via Germany, I guess they figured they would make Germans the "random search" victims as often as possible. Of course, since I know them, I can't imagine two more innocent people, so it was comical to me, but annoying to them.

Yes it will work. (5, Informative)

Bobb Sledd (307434) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419416)

That is what TrueCrypt is for (but don't encrypt the entire drive). Just encrypt what needs encryptin'. Set up an encrypted volume with a shadow volume inside a regular file. Call it something that looks like a system file like MSDOS.SYS or DBLSPACE.BIN or something. (That would explain the unusually large size of the file.)

So first, they would have to know you even have something encrypted (which is just a guess if they see TrueCrypt installed). Then they'd have to know what/which files was/were encrypted (which can't be determined by examining the file). Then they'd have to ask you to mount the volume and provide the password (at which time you then provide the shadow volume password, which only contains innocuous files).

I can't be the only dummy to figure that out.

Re:Yes it will work. (1)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419594)

And if they do see that you have Truecrypt installed, tell them it is only for use with the USB key your boss/client/whatever has at .

Re:Yes it will work. (2, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419700)

So first, they would have to know you even have something encrypted (which is just a guess if they see TrueCrypt installed).
On OSX, disk utility will create encrypted disk images for you, so every mac user potentially has encrypted content (apparently Vista also has something similar).

Furthermore, you could also make TrueCrypt portable on XP, putting it, and possibly even your encrypted volume on a USB Key. Include this with a simple file rename and extension change and you'll have hidden encrypted content.

Refuse you entry to the contry (4, Interesting)

imuffin (196159) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419428)

Can customs officials refuse entry to an American Citizen? Can they banish me for refusing to divulge my password?

Re:Refuse you entry to the contry (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419578)

Can customs officials refuse entry to an American Citizen? Can they banish me for refusing to divulge my password?
They cannot. They can only detain you "for a reasonable period of time" while they investigate what you may be carrying, but they have to justify the length of detention by some reasonable suspicion. i.e. we suspect he swallowed drugs and so can take 3 days to see what comes out the other end. But they need to back that up with why they suspect that.

Or another example is detain you and/or the computer until they can image the drive.
And they can confiscate contraband (your definition may vary).
Ultimately, you have the right to enter the country.

Re:Refuse you entry to the contry (3, Informative)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419648)

I don't think the issue is whether or not an American citizen might be "banished from the country" upon making a return trip. I'd say, no, they're NOT able to do that.

The problem is, they could confiscate your expensive computer gear, and there's no guarantee you'd ever get it back. (There seems to be no real statute of limitations on the time these people are allowed to take to "examine" your property, if they claim a potential "security risk".)

Re:Refuse you entry to the contry (1)

GottMitUns (1012191) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419652)

Of course not. To deny entry they would have to strip your US citizenship first.

Re:Refuse you entry to the contry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419676)

Well, they certainly can when you are entering a country that is not the U.S.. So, are you going to refuse to give the password to the customs agent when you arrive in the UK? The reason we haven't heard about court cases from European countries like this is that there isn't even a basis there to claim that customs can't look at what is on a laptop (there may be one or two countries--in the world--where this does not hold true, but this is the international standard).

CF/SD cards? (3, Insightful)

future assassin (639396) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419432)

Maybe depending on the amount of data you have you could store it onto a CF/SD card and put it into your camera? There has to some way of storing the data on the memory card so that the camera will not see those files but still leave enough space to take a few shots of the customs agents.

Wireless HD like bluetooth or RFID (1)

emj (15659) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419444)

See this is why we should have Wifi harddrive that you can easily access without opening your bags. Think about it the customs won't even have to stop anyone they can just leech all the data and check if you got something illegal.

So no long queues, no waiting, everyone is happy. We just have to wait for EyeFi [www.eye.fi] to release a version slightly larger than 2GB..

Make it not boot (1)

Iberian (533067) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419450)

My Options:
1: Just pull the HD and keep it on your person
2: Pull some other component so it doesn't boot and say it is a non-working laptop
3: Have it boot to a BSOD. (should be easy in Windows)

Re:Make it not boot (1)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419534)

If you can't make it work, they won't let you take it on the plane. They always ask me to turn on the notebook.

Happened to me a few years ago. Had a CD player that had its own charging system; ran out of juice. Couldn't get it to work. US Customs said "Naw, not allowed." Had to fill out a form, leave it with them and then pick up when I got back. I guess they're concerned that you have parts that may make a bomb or detonator.

Re:Make it not boot (1)

joshv (13017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419692)

Have it boot to a fake BSOD - normal boot when you hold down a specific key. It "works" - screen comes on, hard drive light flashes, etc, just looks like the OS is broken.

Re:Make it not boot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419720)

So you're saying it was a Sony?

Re:Make it not boot (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419734)

2: Pull some other component so it doesn't boot and say it is a non-working laptop

Might work on customs, but airline security will take it from you since non-working laptop = a bomb.

Stay on the the good side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419470)

Just one more reason why you should stay outside us...

This is ridiculous (1)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419480)

The border agent is likely to start this whole process with a 'please type in your password.'
This is no problem at all: just use a steganographic filesystem hidden on your crypted filesystem. When asked to enter your password, enter the password for the first fs. The second will still be safe and you can even deny it is there.
But: the US is becoming more and more a police state. I would have liked to come and see NY, California, Washington and all your nice cities you have over there, but all this bullshit stuff you throw at normal people who would like to come and spend some money in your stores and restaurants an hotels just pisses me off. Really. Just stay all by yourself if you wish so.

Re:This is ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419722)

But: the US is becoming more and more a police state. I would have liked to come and see NY, California, Washington and all your nice cities you have over there, but all this bullshit stuff you throw at normal people who would like to come and spend some money in your stores and restaurants an hotels just pisses me off. Really. Just stay all by yourself if you wish so.
I don't think most of us wish it so. Or, at least, a lot of us don't. But it just is. When the clowns you are able to vote for are generally dipshits, and running for office yourself isn't an option, what else is there to do? Sure, democracies allow for some say, but no one really gets much choice in what their government does day to day.

Re:This is ridiculous (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419754)

I would have liked to come and see NY, California, Washington and all your nice cities you have over there, but all this bullshit stuff you throw at normal people who would like to come and spend some money in your stores and restaurants an hotels just pisses me off.

And Europe treats foreigners any better? In fact, it's mostly the USA implementing the kind of customs Europe has had for decades.

You really ought to try it anyway: change your money to US Dollars and your eurofag-manpurse will just freakin burst.

Re:This is ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419788)

But: the US is becoming more and more a police state. I would have liked to come and see NY, California, Washington and all your nice cities you have over there, but all this bullshit stuff you throw at normal people who would like to come and spend some money in your stores and restaurants an hotels just pisses me off. Really. Just stay all by yourself if you wish so.


You won't be missed.

Undoubtedly I won't be missed when I fail to vacation in the EU this year.

So, we're even.

Even if I wanted to vacation in Europe, it exchange rate pretty much buts the kabosh on it.

NX or VM (1)

ptelligence (685287) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419512)

Pack light. Take a laptop with NXClient and not much more. Then remote back into your home PC to do the stuff that you don't want customs to see. Another option is to use VMware to do your work and save the VM to a USB key or your cell phone before you leave for the airport.

I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419516)

How on earth did we get to this point? Why are customs officers allowed to search my data? Is this the type of Orwellian dystopia we came to live in? Why can't I have my privacy when travelling abroad? Why is it the state's business what sort of life I choose to live, what sort of porn I choose to enjoy and what sort of nekked pics I choose to take of myself or anybody else? How can a customs officer confiscate a USB thumbdrive or a mini-SD flashcard I carry with me?

If this is not abuse, then what is it.

Re:I don't get it (0, Troll)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419792)

Our customs control is a GOOD thing, brother. Customs keeps lots of bad stuff out of the US. If you have a gripe, deal with it politically. As for me, I'll take the good with the bad right now. Your "Orwellian dystopia" is very real in many of the other countries on this Earth. Many customs guards won't think twice about ransacking your stuff and detaining you indefinitely (unless you bribe them appropriately, of course).

VPN and remote working (1)

Zebadias (861722) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419522)

Simply have no data on your laptop and do all your work remotely via an encrypted internet link!

Corporation Lawyers (5, Interesting)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419528)

You can bet that before I type my password for a customs agent, I'm going to talk to my company's legal department. And I'll wait in the customs office as long as it takes. Or simply forfeit the laptop and put it in the trash.

The IP on my laptop is easily worth 10x more than the value of the laptop itself.

Re:Corporation Lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419704)

Oh I don't know what you are worried about. After all, the real data is inside your head, isn't it, Johnny Mnemonic???

Re:Corporation Lawyers (1)

Kandenshi (832555) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419802)

The IP is that valuable and you're just going to put the laptop in the trash? ...

What? You don't think that someone will notice, and perhaps take that laptop? Perhaps rummaging through the contents at their leisure?

If you decide to smash the laptop violently first, then dump the shattered bits into the trash that might work I suppose, and attract the attention of the cops who think you're unstable.

Imagine the pre-computer days... (3, Informative)

Boron55 (1060136) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419530)

Imagine the pre-computer days, when the customs could stop you, do a naked search and go through all your papers without any passwords. What could you do at that time? Just do not take the sensitive papers with you or mail them with certified mail.

I think there is no difference now. Email your files and do not put them on your laptop. That is what TFA is basically saying too.

So, IMHO, complains here won't work. The only problem that travelers have with laptop/cellphone search is inconvenience (since everybody is used to store all your files on your hard drive), but otherwise it is not any bit less legal than it was before the laptop era. And inconvenience is not any concern for authorities at all. So consider your laptop to be your briefcase and just not put any documents there that you don't want custom officers to see. End of story.

US Customs has always been like this (5, Informative)

querist (97166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419540)

Having returned from my second trip to China, I still find it amazing that it is easier for me, as a foreigner, to enter China than it is for me, as a US citizen (born a US citizen to parents who were US citizens, etc.) to enter the US after a trip abroad.

I just pretty much walked right through in China - I handed them the entry form (one half of the two part form - the other half you give them when you leave) and they waved me through. Customs in China did not even ask to see my laptop, never mind read files or anything like that.

On returning to the US at Detroit International, I was given the 3rd degree by US Customs agents, and I'm a US Citizen. "How long were you in China?" (as if he couldn't tell by the side-by side entry/departure stamps in my passport) "What were you doing there?" (visiting friends) "What do these friends do for a living?" (A couple of college professors and a financial analyst)

This happened on both of my trips.

And I noticed that they were doing this to EVERYONE, not just me. (The plane had several hundred people on it.) I'd hate to see what they were doing to Chinese citizens entering the US.

I hope they realize that they are going to scare businesses away from the US if they keep this up.

I find it somewhat ironic that the captcha for this post is "undergo".

Addendum:US Customs has always been like this (2, Informative)

querist (97166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419574)

Just to spare the speculation, etc: I'm caucasian, of Western European descent, so no, I don't look "Middleastern" or "Asian" or anything else. Just your typical "white male".

Re:US Customs has always been like this (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419786)

On returning to the US at Detroit International

That pretty much covers it right there. Anytime you have to deal with anyone in an authority position in Wayne county, you're going to be treated like dog feces. Doesn't matter if it's TSA, DMV, County Clerk. You name it. If they have some authority, by god they will wield it over you to the best of their ability.

After all, you're making them do "work." That's a four letter word around those parts.

I tend to be rather busy when on business travel (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419548)

So your best defence is to clean up your laptop. A customs agent can't read what you don't have ... Delete everything you don't absolutely need. And use a secure file erasure program to do it. While you're at it, delete your browser's cookies, cache and browsing history. It's nobody's business what websites you've visited. And turn your computer off - don't just put it to sleep - before you go through customs; that deletes other things ... Some companies now give their employees forensically clean laptops for travel, and have them download any sensitive data over a virtual private network once they've entered the country ... I know this all sounds like work, and that it's easier to just ignore everything here and hope you don't get searched.
Me: Sorry boss, I would have loved to get that client report/presentation/proposal done on the flight like we talked about, but I had to spend all my time forensically cleaning the laptop in preparation for customs.

Boss: WTF???

Mission Impossible (1)

neuromancer23 (1122449) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419552)

Just add a sysV service that sends a self-destruct command.

Slashdot will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

Lateral thinking ne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23419556)

Don't take any data with you. Separate the Data from yourself

Leave it on your secure server at home, and dial in when you get to america

or If you really need to transport it, post it encrypted inside a DVD box for a game or TV show as a "gift" to a pobox and pick it up once you get in Amercia.

Problem? (-1, Flamebait)

Blinded By The Light (1248724) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419564)

Speaking as a survivor of 9/11 who lost a brother and many friends on that day...

I have zero problems with securing our borders.

And I do have a problem with the anarchists who want to test or protest the system by providing problems in the security lines at airports, slowing down my own travel more than necessary and making trouble for the people whose job it is to protect us.

I carry corporate source, designs and some customer data on my laptop. Yes, it would be a problem if it were made public. I encrypt it, but do not hide it. I see no reason that a border guard, a TSA guard or even the (whisper) NSA would choose to give it to a competitor if they had it.

What's the problem here? Is this a matter of principle or is there something to hide? Consider how important your data is to a customs official. News flash: I'd bet a lot that they don't give a rat's ass what you've got, as long as it's not illegal.

If it's illegal, then the problem is totally different and you have no right to complain about it.

Sure, somebody will say "but they could be bribed by a competitor to take YOUR data". Ok, solve that problem by flipping a coin to decide which line you wish to enter thru. The world does not revolve around you and most people just don't care.

Re:Problem? (3, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419716)

Yes it's wrong to buck the system and cause trouble for other people.

However, I advocate cooperation simply because conniption causes more porblems than it solves. I would protest this however I could, legally, by picketing or voting or radio station callins.

Just because it's wrong to buck a system doesn't make the system right.

We have a bill of rights for a reason, and getting all panicky and security crazed is just going to let someone powerful step in and take over.

If you give up your freedom, you invite a tyrant. Trusting the government to do everything right only works with saints, which humans most definitely aren't. It's why we have checks and balances.

Re:Problem? (2, Interesting)

GottMitUns (1012191) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419804)

Your comment implies that the government and its representatives are infinitely kind and benevolent. That is not so. There is but one step from arbitrary airport search to Guantanamo. This is Slashdot. Government is evil.

Agents don't care at all (1)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419566)

Border agents should be better labeled as "Border Clerks." At land crossings from US to Canada, they're just tollbooth jockeys who can't skim a little off the top, so they take any reason or excuse to waste the customer's time.

They're easy to outsmart, just don't "act smart." Stupid people hate smart people.

Two Drives (3, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419612)

Some of today's higher end laptops have easily removable Hard Drives (some multiple drives). It shouldn't take more than a minute or two to replace a functional secondary HD for Customs, and have the other drive tucked into your bag.

Though, they'll probably protest the phillips driver you'll have to carry to accomplish this, because you know that is a dangerous weapon.

Receipts? (1)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419636)

If a "border clerk" wanted to confiscate my property, can I demand a receipt and a written guarantee of privacy in regards to the data they copy?

We keep hearing stories of corporate laptops with confidential information being lost in the public. What if our own government loses this data?

Grabbing your data isn't the worst they could do (4, Interesting)

lowsinon (842366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419658)

No doubt they just install a rootkit/keylogger on your box after ripping your HD so after you leave their rootkit calls back and gives them your truecrypt passwords. Don't use a laptop you've lost sight of.

TWM (1)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419672)

That should really confuse this so called "security expert" Quite frankly, I would be one of those guys who refuses to divulge my password. Even if I did, he / she wouldn't know what they were looking at since I don't run Windows. I think most of this is just to demonstrate that the laptop is not an explosive device, and really is a functioning laptop.

Go america!!! (1)

corifornia2 (1158503) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419684)

Take that you stupid terrorists. We've foiled your MacBookBomb plans!!!!! arararararrargh.

our country is stupid and ridiculous, when will it stop?

Use a bootable Linux CD or SDCard (1)

mungurk (982766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419718)

One way to accomplish this and retain and Windoze data you may have, is to have either a bootable CD of Puppy or Knoppix Linux, or, even better, have Puppy Linux on an SDCard, if your BIOS supports booting from SDCard. Then, they can examine your computer, browse files, including some photos you have in there just for show, and they won't even notice your Windoze content at all. You could even label the CD "Camping Photos" and have some photos on there too, with a multisession ISO burn, and if they remove the CD, Puppy will still run (if already booted) since it does not require the CD to be present, after you have booted.

Simplest solution. Canada (5, Insightful)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419728)

Have all your US and overseas clients meet each other in Toronto, Vancouver or anywhere in Canada for that matter.

OS X (1)

pipoca (1142297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419748)

I'm heading off over to Israel in a couple weeks. How well would making OS X boot up into a terminal? It's my primary computer, but I don't have anything that I really need to protect in it (or rather, the only thing it would protect is my privacy; no damning data or anything like that). More then that, does anyone know how to do it? Also, what's the command to start quartz?

Go ahead search my Laptop officer.... (3, Interesting)

old dr omr (1289450) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419756)

My Mobile phone has a 4Gb flash card the size of my little fingernail. If I had any files that I didn't want customs to see I'd keep them on there and hide it somewhere they'd never find it. Come to think of it I'd probably never find it once I got there. :)

I don't get it (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419768)

The only thing that Schneier says is how . I still don't get WHY? What do I have on my laptop that Customs would be interested in, or would cause them to confiscate it? Emails from my fiance? Jesus, who cares? I'm never going to see that customs guy again, where's the actual harm?

Believe me, noone at US Customs cares that you like gonzo porn. They've seen it a zillion times already. Being insanely private about the uninteresting minutaie of your life is like covering yourself in tinfoil as you walk down the street, so no-one can see what colour shirt I'm wearing. You're just not that interesting.

So what exactly am I supposed to be hiding from the Customs?

What data? (1)

BagMan2 (112243) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419772)

99.9% of us don't have any data on our laptops that a customs agent is going to care about anyways. They are welcome to read all my emails...lots of private stuff in there sure, but nothing they are going to give a crap about. What is it that makes people assume that information they consider private is inherently information everybody else wants to look at? Oh yeah, it's called paranoia.

Dangerous game ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419774)

While I absolutely understand why people need to try to keep some of their data private, I worry that people trying to do this will land themselves in hot water.

I mean, if they find out that you are going to great lengths to hide stuff, they're not going to be happy with you. Isn't it a chargeable offense to deliberately try to hide stuff from customs? The presumption will be that only people with something to hide will be trying to conceal their stuff.

The more people try to evade it, the more they'll learn, and then everyone will be subjected to really insane scrutiny. Eventually, they'll just refuse admission with laptops, or just copy all of the hard-drives or something evil like that.

I guess in a business environment, have a couple of laptops which are used for traveling and contain very little information might be an option. For people with their own laptops, I guess that's not a really good choice.

I guess there's no easy solution to traveling with your data and trying to keep it from prying eyes.

Me, I don't think I'd be overly willing to try to directly foil customs. That's why I fly without pants and carrying a teddy bear nowadays, and check everything else -- they'd rather you just moved on than stand there with Mr Bear in your nammies. ;-)

Cheers

Truecrypt + Thumbdrive = Hidden OS (4, Informative)

Gregoyle (122532) | more than 6 years ago | (#23419794)

There are a couple of ways to hide your data; one is to have two Truecrypt volumes, one hidden and one standard. This is easy, but it still lets the customs agent know you are using Truecrypt. This may not be a problem in the US (right now) but what about other countries where simply knowing about a program like Truecrypt could look suspicious?

This post [truecrypt.org] on the Truecrypt forums describes a way to install two OSes, one for show, and one hidden. Unless there is a Truecrypt rescue CD or bootable USB thumbdrive inserted the system will boot to a normal Windows desktop. This method would hold up to any casual sort of inspection, such as those customs agents carry out dozens of times per day. There are a couple of traces that would need to be removed in order to actually have "plausible deniability", but to me not having the questions asked in the first place is preferable to being able to deny one of the potential answers.

It's sad that you might need to do things like this, but there are often technological solutions to social problems.
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