Laptop Computer Searches at the Border … es-while-t

Bottom line, don’t travel with your laptop, keep your data in your home, access it over an encrypted network connection like VPN or SSH. The USA (the land of the free?) taps all this too, but there’s a vaster amount of data they have to deal with.

Bruce Schneier, some kind of crypto pope, had recommendations about that recently in his newsletter. Basically he said:

Do not use whole drive encryption, because when you turn your Notebook (NB) on, the software will ask for the password and then the officer will ask you to provide the password and may confiscate NB if you refuse.

Rather use Software like Truecrypt, creating an ecrypted drive (which is just a file), you can google for free download, store the key on a USB-disk or something (I personally encrypt the key one more time with a Smartcard which would lock after 7 failed attempts, but this is not for everyone).

Do NOT have an icon of Truecrypt on your desktop, otherwise you have the same problem again.
My suggestion:

You can consider hiding the Truecrypt drive files as something else “”. Presently nobody will dig so deep to find it.

Worst case, they copy files from your NB and later try to decryt them. If you are using Truecrypt, they will not manage that.

Schneier recommends also copying encrypted files to USB drive and put it in you purse. Right now they don’t search for them and if they find the files you may say “no idea what I have there, I guess that is some stuff we moved in company from PC to PC.”

Or just stay well away from the land of the free. Not an option for the less fortunate, I know.

HA!!! Not a problem either.

You forgot the second part: Home of the

Never had a problem with traveling in & out of the USA with a lap top.
More fodder for the paranoid.

They’ll search your fodder too.

And your modder.

Hello Mudder…Hello Fodder…here I am at…camp Gutama…

yeah, but it sort of rhymes

I have never had my laptop searched, and I carry it with me every time I return to the US. I’ll tell you something though, if I ever did encounter this type of problem, that would be the LAST time I would enter the land of the “free.” I would rather fly my family out to see me wherever I am living.

I agree it’s very unlikely to happen. But obviously it did happen, or there wouldn’t be a court case on the subject. And, here’s a description of the facts, from that court case.

Pretty fucked up what happens in that police state, if you ask me.

And, worst of all, here’s what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (one of the highest courts of the land), ruled in that case. … ionle.html

In other words, customs officers can and do search computers any time they feel like it, with or without cause and if they find illegal material you can be prosecuted for it.

Well, Security Experts like Bruce Schneier do not give advice following the idea “mostly nothing happens, so just bring your highly sensitive company data and don’t worry”, they give advice for the unlikely case that YOU are the one unlucky person whose laptop is being searched.

And I wouldn’t want my computer being searched by strangers, even if they wear nice uniforms. An HDD is like an extension of the brain, the idea of people sniffing there is unpleasant, so it is not about paranoia to take simple steps to hide sensitive data.

It is an absolute infringement on privacy. I can totally understand scanning computer hardware for explosive devices or whatever. But going through a person’s computer folders to find god-knows-what, that’s just too close for comfort (what kind of ‘terrorist’ anyway, in their right mind, would keep sensitive data in a folder on their desktop, or in an easy-to-read format for that matter (i.e. not encrypted)? Come on… :noway: ).

Seriously, I don’t think I would ever go home again if that happened to me. It would piss me off that much.

@Mother_Theresa -
So they caught a pedophile/sex tourist?
I don’t have a problem with that.

I have been asked to boot the lap top up. I did. They said thanks. I continued thru the gates.
I also usually carry a Canon S50 digital camera. Been asked to turn it on…I did do. Same thing.

Guess my skin is thicker than most on here.

Did they search through your data, and download your data to on of their hard drives? Or did you just boot it up and boot it down again? I wouldn’t have a problem with that…but I would have a problem with them downloading my information.

btw security by obscurity is not good security.

The request for turning on electronic equipment is done to prove that it’s actually a working product, i.e. you are not hiding any other items (in particular explosives) inside the case. For the laptop it’s usually enough if the boot-up screen comes up, no need to start Windows, log on etc. Thus it’s quite different to looking at or copying your personal or business data.

I don’t have a problem with the mentioned case but as it seems they just got lucky.

The end result is that they may have arrested a man with pictures of naked people on his computer, some of which may have been illegal. But that’s not the issue. The issue is how they discovered that he may have had such illegal pictures. This thread concerns unreasonable searches and seizures, not kiddie porn.

Would it bother you if the police were allowed to randomly walk up to any house, without a search warrant or any reasonable suspicion of illegal acts within it, slam the door open with a battering ram, send in a team of cops to ransack the house looking for evidence of any wrongdoing they might find, and if they did find something – maybe illegal pot plants, maybe stolen property, maybe illegally downloaded music files, maybe (in some states) a man and his wife engaging in oral sex – to arrest those persons and prosecute them based on the evidence discovered during that raid?

Would it bother you if you were driving through Berkeley, CA, in your pickup truck with its John McCain bumpersticker and its NRA bumpersticker and its Pro-Life bumpersticker and your We Support our Troops bumpersticker, listening to country music on the radio, and some liberal Berkeley bicycle cop rides up to your truck at the stop light and looks suspiciously at you, because he doesn’t like your crewcut and he doesn’t like your music and he doesn’t like your bumperstickers, so he asks for your ID, he calls it in and your record’s clean but he still doesn’t like you, so he calls for a backup, they search your truck and find a half-empty bottle of Rebel Yell in your suitcase in the trunk (or a joint if you prefer), so he arrests you for driving with an open container?

The issue isn’t the alleged crime that was discovered in the end. The issue is the search. The US Supreme Court decided long ago that police shouldn’t be given unbridled discretion to stop anyone they wanted, with or without cause to believe the person had committed a crime, and search their person, their vehicle, or their house, without reasonable cause (and without a search warrant in many cases).

So the fact that this guy may, or may not, have had nudie pics of kids is irrelevant to this discussion. This discussion concerns whether customs officers should have a right to turn on your laptop computer and look through the files. I say no. It’s an offensive violation of my personal space that is not reasonably calculated to prevent an imminent threat to others. Making me take off my shoes or go through a metal detector or even rifling through my luggage looking for guns, bombs, etc., OK, I can understand that. But what immediate threat to others is posed by files on my computer?

To search ones computer for offensive data, I believe they should be required to first obtain evidence from external sources that there may be something illegal contained on it, then they should have to get a search warrant, the same as they would have to do to search my bookshelves, or desk or filing cabinet at home.

But, the 9th Circuit has disagreed. So, I suggest you promptly delete all that questionable porn off your computer, and those illegally downloaded P2P videos and music files, because next time you enter the land of the free, they may choose to randomly search through your computer files out of sheer boredom and arrest you.

Security checks before entering the airport are different than Customs checks entering the country.

A security check is just to make sure you don’t have anything that would endanger the flight (IE: bomb). They might ask you to boot up your computer to make sure it’s just a computer, but they won’t download files.

Customs, however, is charged with making sure you’re not bringing in anything illegal into the country. They can search anything they want. They can legally search your laptop data for illegal images just like they can search your dirty undies for illegal substances. It’s understood that anything you bring into the country is subject to search. The laws for search and seizure for if you’re already in the country are different from when you’re just entering the country.

You know, countries like Saudi search through people’s materials when they enter the country to make sure that there is no porn or anything offensive to Islam. But what the US is doing here with computers is taking it even a step further than that. I can understand searching luggage and what have you…but files on a person’s computer? :noway: Not without a warrant. Or that would be my last trip home.

I am not defending the practice, just pointing out that they have the legal grounds to do it. Frankly, checking laptops for illegal images is about as effective at preventing it entering into the US as pissing on a forest fire would be in putting out the fire. BUT, the law says on the grounds of preventing those images or people carrying them from entering the country, Customs can legally check your laptop, digital camara, PDA, flash drives or any other device.

@CraigTPE -
Well, thats it exactly.
People can piss & moan all they want but the simple fact is, Its what the law says at this point in time.
Some things are deemed illegal for entry into and out of the USA. If one would care to do so, it is an simple matter of ‘googling up’ several instances of Export Controlled material being transported out of the USA via hard drives and other computer storage tools. These doc’s were illegal, they actors were caught and are doing federal time. Most were going to the PRC. I could be mistaken, but I seem to remember an incident such as this just a couple of weeks ago.
And, as also mentioned, certain Mohammedan countries have deemed Christian items and material illegal for entry. Punishment is not light for those intentionally or otherwise in possession of these restricted items.

Personal opinions aside, its what is the law on the books that counts.
And one might remember, a war is going on…that does influence things a bit for some people.