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Tips For Taking Your Laptop Into and Out of the US?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the hug-a-tsa-agent-with-fervor-and-passion dept.

Data Storage 940

casualsax3 writes "I'm going to be taking a week long round trip from NYC to Puerto Vallarta Mexico sometime next month, and I was planning on taking my laptop with me. I'll probably want to rip a few movies and albums to the drive in order to keep busy on the flight. More important though, is that I'm also going to be taking pictures while I'm there, and storing them on the laptop. With everything in the news, I'm concerned that I'll have to show someone around the internals of my laptop coming back into the US. The pictures are potentially what upsets me the most, as I feel it's an incredible violation of my privacy. Do I actually need to worry about this? If so, should I go about hiding everything? I've heard good things about Truecrypt. Is it worth looking into or am I being overly paranoid?"

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If you're that worried... (5, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318803)

...encrypt it. Full disk encryption is relatively cheap, easy, and unobtrusive.

You gave one such example in your post.

But uh, mind if I ask: exactly what kind of pictures are you planning on taking on your vacation? ;-)

Re:If you're that worried... (5, Insightful)

vwjeff (709903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318877)

Make sure you have a backup of the pictures before you enter the US. Secure online storage is cheap. You can refuse to give them the password but they can take your laptop for "analysis."

Re:If you're that worried... (4, Informative)

asdir (1195869) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318887)

According to briefing my boss gave me recently, Truecrypt would not help: If they really wanted to see your content they could ask you to show it to them or alternatively confiscate your laptop and decrypt it themselves. The latter would mean you would probably not see your laptop again.
Let me tell you: As a European scientist I am even more frigthened now to go or even move to the US.

Re:If you're that worried... (5, Insightful)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319037)

Truecrypt would not help: If they really wanted to see your content they could ask you to show it to them or alternatively confiscate your laptop and decrypt it themselves.

Truecrypt provides plausible deniability - the capability to create a hidden encrypted volume within another encrypted volume, thereby allowing you to grant access to unimportant/dummy data when a password is asked for without the attacker knowing additional information even exists.

As for the US government just decrypting the colume themselves, as far as I know they simply don't have that capability. If your boss knows otherwise or has knowledge of ways to defeat Truecrypt's plausible deniability then (s)he should provide some kind of evidence to back that up, otherwise this just sounds like uninformed guesswork or pure tinfoil-hattery.

Re:If you're that worried... (5, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319189)

Truecrypt provides plausible deniability - the capability to create a hidden encrypted volume within another encrypted volume, thereby allowing you to grant access to unimportant/dummy data when a password is asked for without the attacker knowing additional information even exists.

Well, there's that, and the fact that no file can be positively identified to be a Truecrypt volume. Until you you give a password it just appears to be random data. High entropy random data, but the guy at the border is looking for a 5 minutes spree tops - I seriously doubt he knows what entropy is let alone enough to check for it.

If you're that worried create a volume with nearly same size as your system RAM, keep it in a directory with some source code (even write a stupid program that will crash if you want) and just name it "core" or "core.dumped". If asked about it tell them when you were testing your program (that does whatever you want to maekup) it crashed and dumped memory to file. It's probably just corrupted nonsense . . .

Re:If you're that worried... (4, Informative)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319245)

Yes, I was going to recommend plausible deniability as well.

Here's a little more info about how it works. Basically, you set up a container and a hidden volume. Each has its own passphrase. To open the hidden volume, you use its passphrase when opening the container. To open the container with dummy data, you type its passphrase. It's very simple and quite hidden if done correctly. To be safe, it's best to access the hidden volume from a live CD so the OS doesn't break your deniability by storing temporary files or "recently accessed documents" etc.

However, there is one big note of caution. Do not back up the container. Ever. An attacker could look at the change over time and determine there is a hidden volume. That's probably too paranoid for your case but it's worth mentioning.

Re:If you're that worried... (2, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319293)

confiscate your laptop and decrypt it themselves.

They could confiscate the laptop, but as for decrypting it? Doubtful. A brute force attack on Rijndael (which is the default for TrueCrypt) is just not worth the effort assuming that it can even be done. As far as is publicly known Rijndael has not been broken via brute force attack and if the laptop is not in the "on" state when they confiscate it then they are looking at either brute force attack, rubber hose cryptanalysis, or forget it (i.e. you don't have your laptop anymore and they don't have your data). Probably the best solution that I have heard is to have a hidden partition (a feature of TrueCrypt) with the secure operating system and an main unencrypted partition for the public operating system whereby the secure operating system is only booted if a "key" (typically a USB memory module or other USB device) is inserted during the boot process AND then the corresponding password entered at the prompt. That way when the laptop is presented for inspection the public OS is booted automatically (as expected) while there is no indication that a hidden secure OS even exists. The border police on duty likely have no knowledge of TrueCrypt and its various technical modes (that information is above their pay grade) so they won't suspect that there is anything more than meets the eye with regard to your laptop and will simply waive you by.

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318889)

You know what kind of pictures he is taking.

Encrypt the entire hard drive.. Or.. email the pictures home...

Do not give them the password.
They can take the notebook, and they will never get the information on it and just send it back to you.

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318891)

Good advice. Get up on the Truecrypt. It's freeware. Set up an encrypted container file, and just keep it unmounted. Good to go.

Re:If you're that worried... (1)

do_kev (1086225) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318903)

If your laptop gets seized and searched, and they discover it's encrypted, couldn't they just order you to give them access to the files?

If you're really that worried, it seems like a safer bet just to make sure that you don't have anything that you need to hide.

Re:If you're that worried... (4, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318929)

...encrypt it. Full disk encryption is relatively cheap, easy, and unobtrusive.

And ineffective, unless your privacy is worth more than the cost to piss them off and have to replace your laptop.

Re:If you're that worried... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318931)

But uh, mind if I ask: exactly what kind of pictures are you planning on taking on your vacation? ;-)

It shouldn't matter what kind of pictures he takes. It is none of their business.

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318935)

But uh, mind if I ask: exactly what kind of pictures are you planning on taking on your vacation? ;-)

Ohh c'mon... the guy's going to mexico. There's only one answer: DONKEY SHOW! *ducks and hides*

Re:If you're that worried... (4, Insightful)

QCompson (675963) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318943)

But uh, mind if I ask: exactly what kind of pictures are you planning on taking on your vacation? ;-)

A subtle "if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear" poke. Haha.

It doesn't matter what kind of pictures he takes with him on vacation. He doesn't want a bunch of random law enforcement officials looking at his private pictures. Understandably.

Re:If you're that worried... (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319263)

There's only one solution that guarantees that nobody will rifle through your data: don't bring it with you through the border crossing. That's what servers are for... and SSL, or at least SSH/SCP/SFTP.

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318949)

Let's see, poster's name is "casualsax3," so...

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318961)

Think Tijuana without those pesky "laws"

Re:If you're that worried... (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318969)

When it comes down to it, the best defense is to have nothing on the laptop that you don't want them to have access to. It's the same as not carrying anything in your briefcase you wouldn't want them to see. Full disk encryption will work, but then they could force you to type in the password, etc. If you want to fight the intrusiveness and fight for your privacy, then good for you, full disk encryption and refusing to type in the password will work for you. If you just want to get through fast without getting hassled, then bring a laptop with nothing on it but the essentials (assuming your business won't get you landed in jail), let them do their thing, and go through.

Re:If you're that worried... (1)

mozumder (178398) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319005)

They'll ask you for the decrypt password. If you don't give it, they can seize laptop.

We need a distress-key decrypt password system that unlocks a false filesystem when ordered to decrypt.

Re:If you're that worried... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319119)

Which TrueCrypt actually implements. Other problems you want to bring up that we can solve technically or are we just left with political problems now?

Re:If you're that worried... (5, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319185)

No, they cannot "sieze your laptop" if you don't give them the encryption password; a strict reading of the policy is that the laptop can be seized in any event, encryption or no. There is NO REQUIREMENT to provide anyone with an encryption password under any circumstances. The existing policy doesn't even speak to encryption. In fact, leading privacy advocates recommend encryption [cnet.com] as the most deisrable solution.

You guys do realize that customs agents at the border have ALWAYS had the right -- without a warrant -- to perform reasonable search and inspection of all physical objects and persons coming into the United States; this policy was designed to expand those longstanding inspection rights to electronic data.

In its current state, it's a poorly written policy. The fact is, no one is going to look at the contents of your laptop, much less be seizing it. (Do you guys actually travel internationally?)

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319225)

Like TrueCrypt's hidden operating system?

Re:If you're that worried... (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319287)

need a distress-key decrypt password

truecrypt to the rescue, whether you setup a actual partition, or a file to be mounted as a partition, truecrypt can have multiple passwords that each extract different files, one stats at the end of the partition, the other at the beginning. Since neither algorithm knows the others data exists, filling more than half of your file/partition is risky. since you can also due partitions inside of partitions, you can setup as many distress passwords (ie put text files with password reminders only you could get...)

Re:If you're that worried... (1)

Popeye04 (979870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319131)

Actually, just create a file with truecrypt - that way the authorities can see a normal windows (or linux - let them figure that out) system with none of your private stuff unless you moutn the encrypted file - it looks less suspicious that way

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319143)

Try not to use Full disk encryption. use a file volume instead. if you use FDE you will have to login at boot time.

when you get to the border theagent will boot your box, and ask you for any passwords that pop up. if you have a discrete volume somwhere in your /home though, no one would notice it unless they we're going through your content file by file.

good luck, and yse Truecrypt is a good choice.

Re:If you're that worried... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319159)

Full disk encryption is good, but you need an unencrypted dummy OS to throw them off or you'll never see the laptop again.

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319167)

Store your pictures on a flash drive or burn them to CD, put them in your check-in baggage, delete from laptop. Problem solved.

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319171)

The problem with full disk encryption in this situation is that all they have to do is tell you to log in and unlock things. You can certainly say no, and they can still take your laptop, toss your bags, etc. Better for this scenario is to use the virtual-volume method of Truecrypt. Put anything and everything you don't want seen on an encrypted volume, but don't automount it and don't leave a lot of obvious icons lying around. They want to see your machine, you boot up, log into Windows, and they have a vanilla machine to examine. They're happy you cooperated and you reveal nothing.

Memorize this text (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319175)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That's all you need. If it doesn't work, let them have it and sue the hell out of them. The ACLU and EFF may help you.

Re:If you're that worried... (2, Insightful)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319191)

Not full disk. If it looks like you're got something to hide, eg anything your average AOL using person wouldn't have on their PC, they'll be all over you. You want to look as much like your typical PC user as possible.

Use truecrypt with the encrypted volume option. When truecrypt is running you'll see an additional drive letter where you store your documents. When truecrypt isn't running, you just see a file. The file can be anywhere, named anything, say C:\windows\system64.dll.

Before you hit customs, remove or hide truecrypt.

It's very unlikely anyone would notice anything out of the ordinary.

Of course if you're the type of person who's randomly selected for special screening, then you might still be better off uploading the files.

Re:If you're that worried... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319261)

yeah right. Puerto Vallarta is a child molestors destination and your looking to encrypt your pics.

Get real fool.

Ob. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319289)

stick a thumb drive up your ass...

mail it. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318811)

problem solved.

Re:mail it. (2, Interesting)

nwf (25607) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319299)

That's what I was thinking, but it would likely be expensive to get it through customs. Or put all your data and OS on a SSD and rent or borrow a laptop on whatever country you are going to. Swap the hard drives and you are good to go.

Flash mem (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318831)

keep an SD card in ur wallet

Re:Flash mem (1)

doas777 (1138627) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319211)

that's a good plan as long as they don't find it. my first thought was the same. unfountunatly though, the statute allows them to confiscate media as well.

Put the tinfoil hat away (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318845)

No one is going to search your computer other than to make sure it is a computer and not a bomb.

Re:Put the tinfoil hat away (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318953)

No one is going to search your computer other than to make sure it is a computer and not a bomb.

You'd think that, but there have been stories recently about that not being the case.

Put the dunce cap away (2, Funny)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318981)

If you haven't noticed lately, the DHS can search your laptop [slashdot.org], make copies of everything on your laptop and keep it. If you are a person who loves exercising arbitrary power over people, you probably work for the DHS or another government agency.

Its really funny that a person who doesn't care about basic civil liberties is posting as AC. However, the joke is probably on me and you are just a troll. :)

Re:Put the dunce cap away (4, Informative)

HBI (604924) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319069)

OK, i'm not AC and I can tell you that they don't have time to check out laptops at most international airports beyond the aforementioned bomb check.

Yes, i've passed into and out of the country several times during the last year. No search.

Re:Put the dunce cap away (4, Insightful)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319213)

No one said it is happening to everyone. That misses the point entirely. Illegally searching even a small percentage of people is unnacceptable. Especially since people affected by this have almost no redress and the DHS doesn't even accurately report when they do this.

I guess its only a problem when it happens to you. Maybe you should pick up a history book and find out how well that attitude worked in the 1930's and many other time periods.

Re:Put the dunce cap away (1)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319223)

I posted as AC because my opinions are usually not inline with the group think of Slashdot. From the posts here, you'd think there is an entire army of computer techs just waiting to break into their laptops. It's simply not true and is out of touch with reality. Anyone who has flown internationally lately knows that. I bet not one Slashbot has ever had his personal files pawed through going through airport security.

don't take data across the border (4, Informative)

Aurisor (932566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318847)

Throw a clean install on your laptop, and put your critical data on a server so you can just log in and download it when you arrive.

When you're about to fly back, re-upload your data and wipe the drive.

You could also just mail encrypted DVDs with substantial insurance.

Memory Stick would be Easier (1)

MuChild (656741) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318857)

You could offload all your photos onto a memory stick. I doubt they would search that. Especially if it's not in your carry-on.Encrypting is pretty darn easy, too. Although if they give you a hard time, you'll just have/want to decrypt it for them to take a look. Otherwise it looks real suspicious.

Re:Memory Stick would be Easier (2, Funny)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319153)

Memory sticks work fine, most security personnel don't even know what they are. Just remember, what ever you do, don't EVER bring a bottle of water with you!

Linux to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318861)

Install linux, set grub to boot into windows straight away. Put what you want on your linux partitions. Fix grub when you're in the US and reboot into linux.

rental (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318871)

I'd use Truecrypt on a USB key of some sort, and use rental computers on the plane and at the destination rather than your own machine, which you leave safely at home.

Use certain Linux distros, and you can literally have your own "computer on a stick" this way.

Not in my experience (1)

Buddy_DoQ (922706) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318875)

However, my international adventures are limited to Canada and Japan. Most recently was a trip to Tokyo last March, where I had 0 issues coming or going with the Macbook I took along for digital photo dumps. YMMV.

Short Answer (4, Insightful)

scipiodog (1265802) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318883)

Short answer: Truecrypt (as you mentioned in the summary.) Is it worth looking into? Yes. Are you being overly paranoid? No. Seriously, have you noticed the big brother trends recently? Truecrypt is very simply and effective encryption, in several forms, from simple encrypted containers to hidden O/S partitions. To take such a simple precaution is not, IMHO, overly paranoid.

Nobody's going to look at your pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318901)

I've never had anyone inspect my laptop, let alone demand it be turned on and proceed to rifle through my personal files. You could probably zip up your photos and rename the extension and nobody would be the wiser.

Get a grip, man.

Maybe not so often? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318905)

Don't know what the criteria for the search is, but FWIW, I've been in and out of the US at least six times in the past two years, and never had my laptop searched. Never seen it happen to anyone either.

Tip #1: (1, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318919)

Use a cruise ship as much as possible. If you leave the US on the boat and come back on the boat then they won't rummage through your shit:

On my last cruise we hid(and these were strictly for our own presonal/recreational use) 3 handles of booze, 24 Marijuana cookies, 1 small bag of marijuana buds, and my noncritical laptop in our main(heavy with clothing etc) luggage. Only the carry-on bags were searched. When coming back into the US just keep your laptop in your main luggage with your clothes and don't have any contraband on you when you get back(like I said, they won't search your laptop if its in the large luggage) as there may be a doggie sniffing.

If you are flying out of the country and flying back in, I don't know what to say except sorry, bro!

Re:Tip #1: (2, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319207)

So, wait a minute. You were worried enough about being searched that you chose to bring your "noncritical laptop" (I'm assuming that's oposed to your critical one). And you packed this laptop right next to your drug stash?

Also, last time I was on a cruise they had bomb/drug dogs checking the bags both while loading and unloading, so I'm not sure how safe it is to pack contraband on your way out of the country either. Though they weren't checking bags if you carried them onto the boat yourself so I guess that's just one more example of security theater.

i dont think they care about your personal pics (1)

nolosses (1198627) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318927)

what are you taking pictures of if you are worried about them looking at them. i can just about guarantee you that they dont really care what the pics are of as long as its your personal life and not something important.

Re:i dont think they care about your personal pics (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319151)

Better not to keep that stuff on your laptop at all, if you're worried. FTP it to yourself, or burn it to some DVDs and stuff 'em in your checked luggage.

If you have more than that, it's best to seek professional help...No one needs to travel with that much pron.

Well, who are you... (4, Interesting)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318937)

Are you a middle eastern looking young male? A white male returning from Thailand? If so, be paranoid.

If not, no worries.

encrypt working OS and partition (1)

tonywong (96839) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318965)

Encrypt your working partition then install a 2nd OS that it defaults to without revealing your main working OS.

That way they can scan for all the information they want off of your plain jane machine and not raise any suspicions about your private data.

Let them try to decrypt it. (5, Funny)

haeger (85819) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318973)

Put your files on a few small USB-sticks, or on your home server (for encrypted retrieval once you're in the country). Bring a Live-CD to boot from and then "cat /dev/random > /dev/sda".
Make sure to grow a big beard, learn a few arabic phrases and quote Allah to the security guard in customs.

Then let them have a crack at decrypting your "encrypted" drive.

Just be sure to say "Just kidding" so they don't ship you off to Guantanamo.

.haeger

Simplify (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25318987)

How about simplifying the whole process. Don't take your laptop at all then you won't have to worry about it. Travel simpler, travel lighter. You can survive without your computer for a week.

1. Buy a book to read instead of watching movies, stop being such a hopeless passive entertainment addict.

2. Get an extra memory card for your photos

If you can't afford to lose it... (3, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318993)

As the old traveler's adage goes, if you can't afford to lose it, don't bring it.

Find a cheap laptop used laptop you won't have problems with ditching. Use a live cd or usb key boot solution so nothing ends up on the hard drives.

Keep your pictures on SD cards and mail them or a copy to yourself or some drop point. Encrypt them all.

Best defense (5, Funny)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 5 years ago | (#25318999)

...is a good offense.

If you're offended by having your privacy invaded, just make it horribly offensive for the invader as well.

With the right accessorizing and appropriate leather:latex:chainmail ratio, you can ensure even the most intrepid airport screener will breeze you through in record time.

Oh...and, yes, Truecrypt is terrific, but not nearly as fun.

tip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319007)

Set your background wallpaper to goatse, tubgirl, or lemonparty. It will disgust the jack booted border control types and I've found at airports and such, it's a great way to meet feelow linux users and others for bathroom sex.

My personal experience (4, Insightful)

SkankinMonkey (528381) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319017)

I've taken my laptop across the border 4 times, my wife has done so many times more, neither of us have had our laptops searched. I've been pulled aside by customs and asked questions once, but even then they did not request to see my laptop. I think the bottom line is, if you act shady they'll look at your stuff, if you're just getting your business done then you're fine.

Truecrypt. (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319021)

Trycrypt is a answer. It is free and they did everything correct. You can encrytpt your current data, and even add a second OS for deniablity.

If they ask you to boot the laptop you type in the password for the 2md OS and they see nothing of your main data disk, only your 2nf OS.

Ae you paranoid? Well, you better be paranoid than sorry.

Yes, you're being overly paranoid (2, Informative)

novalis112 (1216168) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319029)

The laws are a travesty. The system is fubar not just beyond all recognition, but beyond all belief. However, you've got a better chance of justifying the average DMCA takedown notice then you do of having something bad happen to your laptop because of your border crossing. I do it several times a year and have never had anyone even take notice of my laptop. In fact, in all my years of international travel, I've had one complete *ass* of a border agent (at London's Luton airport) and for the most part all the others have been cordial at worst, and down right heartwarming at best. The bureaucrats need to be executed for treason and absolute scumbaggery immediately, the border agents are just people like you and me doing their (admittedly lousy) jobs.

Re:Yes, you're being overly paranoid (2, Insightful)

goaliemn (19761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319325)

Exactly. I go in and out of the country 15-20 times a year, and have for the last 5 years. Never had any problems with customs. I bring my laptop with about 1/3 of the time and never been asked to show it, let alone whats on it.

If you're a nice guy, it shouldn't be any problems. If you make an idiot of yourself, get ready for the check.

Just passed through security with a laptop... (3, Informative)

Tha_Big_Guy23 (603419) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319031)

I just came back in from a two week stay in Europe, where my travels took me through several countries there. While I was there, all the photos that I took were stored on the laptop, along with several movies that I'd ripped to the drive.

Upon my return to the states, the check-in process wasn't any different than it had been a couple of years ago. They asked no questions about my laptop, or if I even had one. The only time my laptop left my bag was when I put it through the X-ray machine.

That being said, it never hurts to encrypt your data anyway.

Misdirection is key (2, Insightful)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319041)

Put them on your iPod. I've got a 80GB Classic, and there's more than enough room there to store whatever you need, and who's going to search your music player for stuff?

Unless, of course, you're doing something naughty and arouse suspicion, in which case you're pretty boned - encrypting/obfuscating the file on the 'Pod would probably help, but if you're getting the full treatment...

What the world really needs is secure storage with a self-destruct feature - when they ask you for the password, you give them X, which wipes the drive as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. (Preferably with a "decrypting, please wait" message)

Re:Misdirection is key (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319251)

What the world really needs is secure storage with a self-destruct feature - when they ask you for the password, you give them X, which wipes the drive as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. (Preferably with a "decrypting, please wait" message)

Second.

Well... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319055)

There is always the tried and true method of shoving it in a condom and swallowing it...Just tell them you have a bionic stomach.

Otherwise, I think you're probably fucked. If you encrypt, you're just showing that you have something to hide, so that's a trip to GITMO.

If you don't encrypt, then people will see your deviant porn, and that's a trip to PMITA prison.

xor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319063)

Bring a few GBs of random data with you. Have a copy back home. Don't let them copy them, but allow them to look at them, using your computer w you around. When you arrive, xor your photos w the random data and put the result on the laptop. Erase the random data. Go back home. Xor with your backup back home of the random data. At any given time, they will only be able to get random data, and/or prevent you from bringing any photos, not getting to see the photos. Unless they breake in to your house. If that is really an issue, get someone to safekeep the random data back home and phone you if it gets stolen.

Don't just encrypt it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319065)

Don't just encrypt your drive. They can take your laptop indefinitely; and if the whole disk is encrypted, they probably will. My recommendation is to use truecrypt, encrypt the files you want to protect, and remove them from your hard drive. Put them on SD cards, with innocuous filenames, along with unencrypted photos, and store them with your digital camera. Or do something similar. The key is to encrypt the files, and hide the encrypted files where they won't look. Another option is to give the encrypted files garbage filenames and put them in your internet cache directory, or some other temp storage.

don't worry about it, unless you are a criminal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319083)

Unless you are already under investigation by the US government then there is very little chance that you will have to show anyone anything.

I travel into and out of the US on a periodic basis and the only thing that I have had to do on rare occasions is power up that laptop, but I think it has been years since I've had to do that.

no worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319087)

I am just back from a month vacation in the US. At not one security checkpoint they asked me to poweron my laptop.And i passed several checkpoints at different US airports. But maybe I was just lucky :)

Takes real vision balls to say something like that (0, Redundant)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319093)

No, message. The subject line was the joke. Move along.

circumvention (5, Insightful)

Draque (1367509) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319099)

An ounce of circumvention is worth a pound of countermeasures. Don't store them on the laptop at all. Store the pictures you're taking online and you'll be able to access them from anywhere. Border patrol can't find something on your computer when it's not there. Even if that's not feasible 100% of the time, you could still make a temporary archive online while removing them from your computer. If even that has you feeling paranoid, you could always burn the files to DVD, wipe them from your computer, and stow the DVD.

Chester Alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319107)

Your going to the gay boy toy capital of the world and plan to take photos eh. And your worried about customs being able to see what "photos" you have stored on your laptop. I dont buy it one bit.

Your just another perv looking to hide your stuff and was hoping /. would help you out.

I hope you get caught, strung up and beaten.

It's all bs - both sides of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319135)

I believe, that coming into the country, the customs agency should have the right to search you and your belongings. I don't believe that they should have the right to sieze any of your belongins without probable cause.

I spent the last five years traveling around the world, typically taking 2 trips a month out of the U.S. to other places. Outside of Saudi Arabia, I've never even had to open a bag for a quick look, although in Saudi Arabia I was more concerned with having my pony-tail chopped off. The current policy of potentially having a laptop siezed is asinine. However, I don't know anyone who has ever had this happen to them and I know a lot of people who travel in and out of the country on a regular basis.

While it's possible for it to happen to you it is extremely unlikely. If you're that concerned about it then encrypt the contents and be done with it.

I'd be more concerned about the 10,000 laptops lost or stolen every week (more bs about this can be found here: http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/147739/laptops_lost_like_hot_cakes_at_us_airports.html [pcworld.com]) than for a customs agent to have enough interest in me to 1) look at my laptop and 2) to want to keep it.

Forget encryption. (1)

grub (11606) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319137)


You can fit a lot of USB sticks in your anus. Probably 3 or 4 Libraries of Congress in your ass, isn't technology wonderful?!

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319199)

You can fit a lot of USB sticks in your anus. Probably 3 or 4 Libraries of Congress in your ass, isn't technology wonderful?!

The one time goatse is on topic and you forget to link it? Seriously?

Oh well, if anything should miss it's fifteen minutes in the limelight it's that image.

In other news.. (4, Insightful)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319141)

Offshore laptop rentals with temporary accounts linked to offshore data are booming! What a great business model. You set up an account with the company, stuff all your crap on a server, then when you get to your destination, you pick up a laptop (maybe your "rental fees" are part of your normal monthly service account)... logging in to the laptop mounts the remote volume and download away.

recommending truecrypt (1)

wastedbrains (588579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319147)

I love it, works great. I honestly don't think full disk is what you want because they can force you to type a password to let them look around. I have a hidden truecrypt file so even if I boot up and they look around they won't see my personal data. Mostly I keep my old journal, email backups, and other stuff in encrypted file. I highly recommend truecrypt

Security guards are security guards. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319161)

They're going to copy all the data over, and search for it for kiddie porn and other junk. You can perform drive encryption and claim the 5th, but they're going to confiscate it from you since if the 4th doesn't apply, nor will the 5th. You're out a laptop and since it's DHS, and above the law; the only way to get it back is by the liberal execution of the 2nd; hiring a lawyer is probably not economically viable. However, if 30 or 40 DHS personell were to be killed in a raid to get some guys laptop back, I do not believe there would be a public outlash, although getting the mass media to report anything truthfully would be difficult.

If you were to go that route, you'd need a couple of buds, a good .308 winchester rifle to pin them down in an open area, a couple of bernelli M3's with a good slug load, M1911; IIIA body armor should be sufficient to take the slug although you can find interceptor on E-bay. Spare the techs, as miserable as they are and as much as they deserve it, they hate their job.

Best advice; leave your laptop at home, buy a stack of MicroSD cards on newegg and hide them in your wallet. A specops wallet

http://www.uscav.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=16869&utm_medium=shoppingengine&utm_source=googlebase&cm_mmc=Google%20Base-_-Products-_-SF-_-V1

is cheap, less expensive than paying for a broken laptop, has hidden compartments, and its pretty hard for even the dumbest security guard to destroy a MicroSD card.

Backup hard drive, then FedEx it (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319183)

Make sure to get a laptop built with ease of HDD removal in mind. Most business oriented laptops are built this way. I usually have a backup HDD (2nd) with a fresh install of windows and some basic apps. If your laptop is subject to search and seizure, the less data on it the better. "Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him" Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis Richelieu (1585-1642)

Taking laptops into Mexico (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319215)

Here's a tip about going in to Mexico: only bring a single laptop. A traveller is allowed to bring a single laptop into Mexico for free. I flew into Cabo San Lucas with my work laptop and an EEEPC and they charged me over $100 tax for the second laptop, ostensibly in case I sell it they get their tax.

Sure, encrypt your drive.. (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319217)

..if you want to ensure that they take your laptop away, since you "obviously" must be hiding something. I'd advise you to leave your computer at home. Simply bring some extra memory cards for your camera, and maybe a media player of some sort if you're really going to be that bored on the flight.

Why does everyone feel the need to travel with their computer? Whenever I go on vacation, a computer screen is the last thing I want to see.

USB keys (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319241)

I would bet that if you move any sensitive data onto USB keys on your keychain, nobody will give them a second glance.

Trucrypt is a great idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25319243)

Trucrypt has a way of encrypting that makes it safe. It has "hidden" encryption. What this means is that you have two "parts". One on which you put sensitive-looking files that you don't actually care about, and the other where you put your naked pictures (or whatever). Then, if they force you to decrypt, you give them the password that decrypts ONLY the sensitive-looking parts that you don't mind much.

There's no way to distinguish the other part from random data, and, seriously, there is no way to decrypt it without the password (contrary to what we see in movies) or spending a few years with a few thousand computers trying on passwords until they get it.

Laptop != Vacation (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319249)

Leave the computer at home. Drink beer and enjoy yourself on vacation. Problem solved.

Even a moderately sized memory card for your camera can hold 200 pictures - can you really shoot more than that in a week?

El Cheapo (1)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319269)

Just buy a cheap laptop, and/or an USB stick. Put your pix on the USB key and put it in your checked bag. Nuke the laptop b4 you come back, I've typically cross the US border 3-4 times a year. I've never had a problem with carrying a USB key along with my camera. I've only brought my laptop across once, and had no problems. The thing I get questioned on is my underwater camera housing, but they just ask what it is. Then they say cool, and ask if their camera will fit. ~:-) To which I say "No, each housing is made for a specific camera." Hope this helps.

Don't have anything for them to find. (1)

Yath (6378) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319313)

Make a spare hard drive that you can boot from, and contains totally innocuous data. Take both drives with you on vacation. Then mail the first hard drive back to yourself. Return to the U.S. with the spare hard drive in the laptop.

The point of this is not to draw suspicion to yourself, and to reduce the DHS's incentives to confiscate your laptop. If they want to see what's on it, you can show them everything - because nothing will be there. If they take your drive and image it, they won't find anything.

You don't want to use encryption, because that will draw attention to you and possibly get you put on a list. You certainly don't want to assert your fourth amendment rights - not only because it won't matter to the DHS while you're physically trying to cross the border, but also because the courts are unlikely to uphold them nowadays.

If you don't want to use a spare drive, then treat the data itself as disposable. Keep track of everything you consider private, and then wipe it from the drive before returning.

Why not just leave the pictures on the camera? (1)

Eezy Bordone (645987) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319315)

I would think they'd be a lot less out of the norm there. Unless you're totally going for the coke & whores where the whores are 12 year old boys. Then you may want to just mail yourself the SD card.

Bandwidth (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319317)

If it's the pictures that you're worried about, archive, encrypt, and email them to yourself or upload them somewhere safe.

If you plan to take gigs and gigs of pictures, take an external hard drive with you and ship it back ahead of you. Make sure it's encrypted, too.

If you really want to test the law, simply encrypt your hard drive or store the photos in a PGP-encrypted file on the unencrypted hard drive. Remember, though, that while the 5th Amendment will probably protect you as an American citizen, it will not save you (nor your family) from the hours and hours of delay and frustration.

It's called probable cause (2, Interesting)

Crane Style (1196643) | more than 5 years ago | (#25319321)

If you've got an NTFS drive you could always go about it using Alternate Data Streams. What pictures? Not going to fool a forensic examiner (nothing you do will, given enough time to look) but you'd probably slide past border folks just fine without having to give up your laptop for not providing the password to an encrypted drive. Don't give them any reason to want to look any further ;)
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