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Homeland Security Changes Laptop Search Policy

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves dept.

Privacy 273

IronicToo writes "The US Government has updated its policy on the search and seizure of laptops at border crossing. 'The long-criticized practice of searching travelers' electronic devices will continue, but a supervisor now would need to approve holding a device for more than five days. Any copies of information taken from travelers' machines would be destroyed within days if there were no legal reason to hold the information.'"

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5 Days? (4, Insightful)

elzurawka (671029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232129)

So, now they will just take away my laptop for 4 days. Good thing my flight is in two hours, and I am not back for 6 weeks...

-EL

Re:5 Days? (5, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232387)

Well, obviously, you should have planned ahead and arrived at the airport one hundred twenty-three hours before your flight, to give yourself ample time to find parking and clear security. It's the responsible thing to do.

Re:5 Days? (3, Insightful)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232481)

And I'm sure we all believe that they'll delete their copy of your data..

Re:5 Days? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232595)

They probably will. There's no need to keep it and it just takes up space. Do you really think they want your stuff?

Re:5 Days? (3, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232763)

They'll delete it. Just like the Geek Squad deletes all of your pornography they copy to their personal drives just in case something goes wrong while they replace a disk drive.

Re:5 Days? (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232929)

They might delete their copy, but first they'll delete your copy, accidentally, of course, and somehow they'll manage to have a daily backup of everything else on the machine that they used to delete your data except for your data.

Re:5 Days? (2, Interesting)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232983)

That is why my laptop contains nothing of interest whatsoever. Any interesting data is kept on encrypted partitions on an 1Tb USB based disk, normally placed safely in the checked luggage.

They can take and keep my laptop all they want, I'll just hook up the real data disk to a new laptop and install Truecrypt and I'm good to go.

Re:5 Days? (4, Funny)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233129)

...normally placed safely in the checked luggage..

You're apparently using a definition of "safely" with which I was previously unaware.

Re:5 Days? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232749)

I'm very musical right now. Just pounded down a large bag of Cheeto's, a 20 ounce Dew, and a can of Nally's Hot Chili. OH MY GOD! Toot, toot!

Re:5 Days? (2, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232853)

My understanding was that this was about when someone goes through Customs. That happens when you arrive in the country, not when you are getting on a flight.

Well that sounds reasonable (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232131)

And since the Constitution only protects against *unreasonable* search and seizure, there is nothing wrong here.

It's just a goddamned piece of paper.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232187)

My flight leaves in 15 minutes you unreasonable clod!

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (5, Insightful)

sabs (255763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232225)

It's not at all reasonable. Frankly, there is no reason that the borders should be checking laptops. Why should they be allowed to withhold any media I have on me, be it paper or a laptop. If they want to make sure it's a laptop and not a fake bomb, thats one thing. But the contents of the laptop should be of no concern to them.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232301)

Sarcasm [wiktionary.org]

A form of humor that is marked by mocking with irony, sometimes conveyed in speech with vocal over-emphasis. Saying something that is opposite of what is intended to be meant.

You're welcome.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232321)

It's our right as citizens to be secure. If your papers (computer) is dangerous, it is reasonable to seize it.

From the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure...shall not be violated, and...Warrants shall issue...upon...particularly...the persons or things to be seized.

It is not long, just quote the whole thing. (3, Informative)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232353)

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.

Re:It is not long, just quote the whole thing. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232443)

Did I just hear a woosh?

Re:It is not long, just quote the whole thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29233063)

And because this is Slashdot and nobody understood the original joke, the clueless pedant (or karma whore) gets modded up.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232445)

You should work for a news agency. I like your style of leaving out the unimportant parts of quotes. ;)

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232477)

Well, as they say,

brevity is the of

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (1)

kpainter (901021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232459)

It's our right as citizens to be secure. If your papers (computer) is dangerous, it is reasonable to seize it./quote. I want to be secure from people who think like you.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (2, Insightful)

sabs (255763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232629)

How exactly is my paper going to be dangerous?
What could someone have coming into this country on a laptop that needs to be seized for any amount of time?

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (4, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232691)

How exactly is my paper going to be dangerous?

You tell me, buddy.

Why don't you just tell us what's on your computer? Why are you acting so suspiciously?

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232967)

You wouldn't be asking that if you could see the papercut on my thumb.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233103)

How exactly is my paper going to be dangerous?

That piece of paper may be a "financial instrument" AKA stock, bond or check that is worth something. That in turn might be used to fund drugs or heaven forbid, "terrorism". It might also be a piece of tissue that can be used, you know, to wipe your arse AKA "bio-hazard". Either way, they have to protect the [artificial man-made] nation from the evil bogeyman.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (0, Offtopic)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232781)

You sir, just got whooshed.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232329)

The 4th Amendment doesn't exist anymore. "Terrerism" always gets top billing in any situation, except maybe anything related to copyright and doomed business models.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232437)

You forget thinking of the children - after all, if we didn't routinely seize laptops, who knows what monstrous things not available on the internet might be brought into the country?

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232557)

Terr'rism and thinking of the children are sooo 2 years ago.

Now they're checking for stolen banking code and illegally downloaded music.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (5, Interesting)

madfilipino (557839) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232411)

The DHS has always held the belief (with the Supreme Court's backing) that people and their belongings at customs checkpoints at the airport (or at a border crossing) aren't within the country (yet), consequently, the constitution doesn't apply to "inspections" within those checkpoints. That gives the DHS and their goons all the leeway they want in "confiscating" or "inspecting" all the stuff they want for as long as they want.

Does this press release change anything? Not really. It just lays some groundwork for more "routine" searches. Anything beyond that they have to give some bullshit reason ("national security") to keep it longer.

What's to stop this bullshit agency from making a mockery of their press releases? I can guarantee you that the goons they have on the "front lines" haven't been told about this "press release".

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232993)

The DHS has always held the belief (with the Supreme Court's backing) that people and their belongings at customs checkpoints at the airport (or at a border crossing) aren't within the country (yet), consequently, the constitution doesn't apply to "inspections" within those checkpoints.

This is insane (as is the idea that there are a whole bunch of things which are perfectly fine to do in, say, Guantanamo Bay, which wouldn't be OK to do in the US). The constitution does not grant rights - it merely enumerates a subset of a person's natural rights. There is nothing about these natural rights which is specific to America or Americans.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (5, Insightful)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233079)

You're frustratingly right about the courts and I don't understand the justification. The ideals were established for citizens because there were supposed to be the right way of running a government. So why are people allowed to circumvent these ideals just because someone is flying into the country? I don't know why so many of my fellow citizens have grown to fear people from other countries. If we believe or moral ground is the example for other countries to strive for then shouldn't we rigidly follow our own rules?

For me, I was once asked to leave my backpack at the counter of a liquor store in Vegas. I had my work laptop in it with a lot of sensitive information involved in setting up one of our events. When the keeper asked me to do this I promptly left as I won't do business with people that treat me like a criminal. Why should we treat incoming travelers like criminals? The vast majority are regular people who don't like being treated as though they have committed a crime anymore that I like to. It's very frustrating that people live their lives in fear when it's almost completely unfounded.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (5, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233109)

By that argument, if a gang of thugs flew into the United States, never left the international arrivals area, and committed heinous crimes while there---plotting assassinations, designing nuclear weapons, calling for hits on their enemies, execution-style murders, gang rape, etc.---they would not be in the U.S. and thus could not be prosecuted under U.S. law. For that matter, any sort of crime---mugging, graffiti, public urination, public drunkenness, public nudity, arson, etc.---would be completely legal as long as you don't leave the international arrivals area. Does arson only become a crime when the fire spreads outside the international arrivals area? This also means that terrorists could legally set up training camps in the international arrivals area of a major airport. Why does the DHS want to harbor terrorists within our borders?

Another scary thought: it may not happen today or tomorrow, but statistically speaking, before the heat death of the universe, some psychopath will likely murder a child in the international arrivals area, get off because he wasn't on U.S. soil, then kill again. Then we'll have another law on the books named after some dead child, all because the government feels such a desperate need to violate its own citizens' right to privacy. The very thought of such a thing happening should give every DHS agent chills. It gives a particularly ironic twist to using the words "think of the children" while executing illegal searches for child porn....

Alternatively, if Cuba or North Korea flew a firing squad into some U.S. airport, lined up its soldiers along the walls, and shot everyone who came through, that, too, would win an award for irony, watching as a not-free country helped a "free" country to be more free.

Or the U.S. .government might simply seal off all the borders. clamp their hands over their ears, and shout LALALALALALALALA! Sounds more like our government to me. After all, nothing could be more important than the government's right to catch stupid criminals who aren't smart enough to ship their pirated DVDs concealed in children's toys, upload their homemade videos of sex with underage girls in Thailand to a server in the U.S. instead of carrying the unencrypted files on their desktop, or download their Al Qaeda propaganda through somebody else's open Wi-Fi access point after they get home. I mean, do they seriously catch any significant number of criminals this way? And if they do, aren't they at least as likely to be able to catch such morons in a million other ways without burning our Constitution in the process?

Just my $0.0137 (adjusted for inflation).

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233113)

The DHS has always held the belief (with the Supreme Court's backing) that people and their belongings at customs checkpoints at the airport (or at a border crossing) aren't within the country (yet), consequently, the constitution doesn't apply to "inspections" within those checkpoints. That gives the DHS and their goons all the leeway they want in "confiscating" or "inspecting" all the stuff they want for as long as they want.

By that logic, no US law applies at the checkpoint. In fact, in all likelihood no law of any description applies at the checkpoint.

In which case, their right to take your laptop, detain you or otherwise inconvenience you doesn't stem from a formal legal system with the checks and balances that implies, it's because they've got a large number of armed goons at their disposal and you have nothing.

Re:Well that sounds reasonable (2, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233037)

I think you need to consult out founding fathers. They thought it was so reasonable to search things comming through the borders that they instituted the very first warrant-less search at the border law in the very first session of congress. This law was later held up by the US supreme court as being necessary for our sovereignty that the very right of sovereignty would be jeopardized without it.

There is a history of this going back to many of the people who drafted the people and who even signed it.

I Believe 'em (4, Funny)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232171)

I believe 'em. I mean, they wouldn't lie to us, would they?...

Re:I Believe 'em (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232215)

Sure... All the TSA employees already got 3 laptops each out of the system.

They're full! Don't need anymore.

captcha: customs

How odd

Re:I Believe 'em (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232343)

I believe 'em. I mean, they wouldn't lie to us, would they?...

That man is a terrorist. The police are always right. The government is acting in your best interests (please hand over your wallet). Everything is going to be fine. Thank you for your cooperation, citizen.

Re:I Believe 'em (2, Funny)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232743)

... please hand over your wallet ...

We need it to pay for health-care for you and the millions of uninsured... Is that, what you were trying to say?

Re:I Believe 'em (5, Funny)

rawls (1462507) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232397)

You still need to be careful. Do what I do and mail each of your laptops to a different state governor before you leave on your trip.

Re:I Believe 'em (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232461)

It's a good plan! Afterall - who better to trust with your valuables than a politician?

So... (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232201)

If any of the "information" was over 18 at the time of photography, they have a "legal reason" to keep it, am I right?

I, for one, definitely trust the letter and the spirit of the law to be upheld on this one. We've never had trouble with illegal intelligence gathering here, especially not when the agency involved is opaque and largely unaccountable. It should be fine.

Re:So... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232413)

I, for one, definitely trust the letter and the spirit of the law to be upheld on this one. We've never had trouble with illegal intelligence gathering here, especially not when the agency involved is opaque and largely unaccountable. It should be fine.

Zim: Computer, give me all the information you have on the FBI.
Computer: The FBI is a government law enforcement agency.
Zim: Continue.
Computer: Insufficient data.
Zim: "Insufficient data"? Can't you just make an educated guess?
Computer: O... kay... Um, founded in 1492 by, uh... demons, the FBI is a crack law enforcement agency designed to... uh, I dunno, fight... aliens?
Zim: I KNEW IT!

Re:So... (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232795)

Oh if the evidence was over 18 they have a great reason. What do you think they are a bunch of pedos?

Welcome to the border (4, Funny)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232213)

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please enjoy your stay in the United States of America, we have searched your laptop and destroyed our copies of your vacation bikini pictures after looking at snapshots of your fine fine body projected onto the conference room wall for an emergency assessment meeting. We did not find anything that would indicate that you might be dangerous outside of the bedroom, so we have kindly loaded your laptop with a government issued keylogger and trojan. We hope you enjoy your time here as much as we enjoyed your pictures. Please take more, we'll be waiting.

Sincerely,

the Department of Homeland Security

Re:Welcome to the border (4, Funny)

surmak (1238244) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232339)

Dear Sir or Madam, Please enjoy your stay in the United States of America, we have searched your laptop and destroyed our copies of your vacation bikini pictures after looking at snapshots of your fine fine body projected onto the conference room wall for an emergency assessment meeting. rest deleted

If this were message ever sent, I would hope the salutation would by shortened to "Dear Madam"

Re:Welcome to the border (0, Redundant)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232463)

Why? Are you a chauvinist sexist pig holdover from the sixties? There are plenty of women working for homeland security, including this rather homely broad [wordpress.com]

Re:Welcome to the border (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232645)

Why? Are you a chauvinist sexist pig holdover from the sixties?

No, he just thinks that if a 'Dear Sir' was wearing a bikini, the DHS might be less inclined to give back his laptop and more inclined to get hold of him

Re:Welcome to the border (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232953)

For a date, you mean? Some guys who need badges and guns to establish their machismo are really turned on by cross dressers. ;^)

Re:Welcome to the border (2, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232647)

I believe he was referring to the Sir and bikini... But hey if that floats your boat go for it.

Re:Welcome to the border (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232823)

Apparently Napolitano has lost her mind if she's allowing shit like this. She was the sole bit of sanity in the mad world that is Arizona state government until she left.

Re:Welcome to the border (5, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232475)

DHS is an equal opportunity employer, you insensitive clod!

Re:Welcome to the border (1)

punkin (461807) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232621)

I'll bet you loaded a government issued Trojan after looking at her bikini pictures.

A press release, nothing more (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232249)

but a supervisor now would need to approve holding a device for more than five days. Any copies of information taken from travelers' machines would be destroyed within days if there were no legal reason to hold the information

.

"A supervisor." Not a judge or someone who has had formal training in law, but a coworker.

"if there were no legal reason to hold the information." They'll just claim they haven't had time to investigate it yet. Or "national security reasons", which is the same as not giving any reason at all. Legal reasons can be manufactured as needed -- our laws are sufficiently complex and vague that a reason can always be found to arrest, detain, and then jail someone. Laws exist to enable authorities to silence or remove people they don't like -- YOU can't enforce the law on someone else, after all.

Are we going to see more searches ... (1)

yet-another-lobbyist (1276848) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232275)

... now that they came up with an updated and "improved" set of rules? Will the officers feel that after the issue has now officially been reconsidered, there is an increased level legitimacy for such actions?

Copying files (4, Informative)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232277)

There's no "legal" reason to keep files stolen by the uneducated border minions unless:

1. You are not an American.
3. You have "trade secrets" that can give American companies a competitive advantage.

And that's one reason why business travel across the Atlantic / Pacific to the US has declined.

Re:Copying files (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232311)

Yeah, because China has never engaged in industrial espionage at the border.

Re:Copying files (2, Insightful)

Ma8thew (861741) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232473)

How is that relevant? Do you not hold yourself to a higher standard than your enemies?

Re:Copying files (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232529)

Not these days, it seems.

Re:Copying files (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232799)

Of course. I think this policy is simply revolting. I also think it has zero to do with industrial espionage.

It's got more to do with inconveniencing people and getting them to accept the fact that they are not the ones in charge of their personal effects. It's also got a lot to do with the need to "protect our phoney-baloney jobs" and look like they are getting tough on international child pr0n smugglers.

The end result, however, is a cleaned up version of the old joke:

Q: What did the security screener's kid get for Christmas?

A: My laptop!

Re:Copying files (5, Funny)

kpainter (901021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232575)

1. You are not an American.
3. You have "trade secrets" that can give American companies a competitive advantage.

2. Classified

This must be where (1)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232305)

those mystery laptops that turned up at State Governor's offices came from.

Captain Obvious... (5, Funny)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232373)

"Between Oct. 1, 2008, and Aug. 11 of this year, Customs and Border Protection officers processed more than 221 million travelers at U.S. borders and searched about 1,000 laptops, of which 46 were "in-depth" searches, the Homeland Security Department said."

I wonder if the other 954 laptops required passwords for login...

Re:Captain Obvious... (3, Informative)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232537)

I wonder if the other 954 laptops required passwords for login...

I'm inclined to believe it's the other way around. While I haven't done any international travel, from what I understand as told to me by co-workers who do travel abroad, laptops (and in some cases, Blackberries) have to be decrypted and ready to inspect. Passwords do not stop these Security Agents from investigating a laptop, and we have had several employees who have missed their flights because they were not allowed to continue with encrypted devices.

So they will have to give back ... (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232375)

... my hundreds of a gigabytes of random bits I've been collecting?

Benjamin Franklin (0, Redundant)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232377)

Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

Re:Benjamin Franklin (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232623)

So, what are we supposed to do? Take up arms? everyone else is giving up this liberty, and so far my best solution is "protest by excessive compliance." I.e. going through security in nothing but your skivvies and a pair of giant fuzzy bunny slippers. (and tank top, if you plan on using an airport restaurant later on.), A clear plastic suitcase, only thick enough for one layer of clothes, so you obviously aren't hiding anything, And all your important account numbers bar coded and face-painted on your forehead.

Feel free to add to the list, btw.

Re:Benjamin Franklin (2, Insightful)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232877)

As a start it would be a good idea to stop your aggression towards other country. It might sound stupid but if you nuke someone he will retaliate.

As for inspecting laptops on the border, if I need to smuggle some info in or out of the country I'd do it over the Internet. Faster, cheaper, more secure, ...

Re:Benjamin Franklin (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232933)

So, what are we supposed to do? Take up arms?

Yes.

The big broown truck (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232383)

Ship your "good" machine in and out of the USA and use a disposable to watch movies in flight. FFS, this is just drama for the news cameras under the guise of protecting America.

Re:The big broown truck (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232553)

Ship your "good" machine in and out of the USA and use a disposable to watch movies in flight.

What should we think that they don't hold and search a laptop just because it's shipped instead of carried on board?

Re:The big broown truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232885)

you can encrypt a shipped laptop and not have to reveal passwords.
they can search laptops with whole disk encryption all they want but they dont bother.

Note to self: buy another laptop (1)

planckscale (579258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232419)

No way in h - e - double hockey sticks would I bring my production notebook on a trip with me overseas. What if 4 years ago, you got malware that distributed something you never knew about existed on your box? What if you had a phone number (or series of numbers) somewhere on your machine that was suspect? Too many what-ifs; I'll bring a freshly wiped notebook on my next trip and only the bare minimum files needed for my job.

I wonder what software they use to scour the machines they investigate? Or is it just some agent poking around looking for encrypted files and folders?

Re:Note to self: buy another laptop (1)

japhering (564929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232561)

No way in h - e - double hockey sticks would I bring my production notebook on a trip with me overseas.

Who in their right mind lets a "production" machine out of the building? Production machine stays put. Travel with a secondary notebook or better yet
a low cost netbook. (Best use yet for netbooks,, cheap throw aways).

Re:Note to self: buy another laptop (1)

AgTiger (458268) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232891)

1. Make backup of laptop prior to travelling. Store "working" backup image at home on your main workstation.
2. Mindwipe the drive (zero it with formatting software particular to the drive - WD offers "Data Lifeguard Diagnostic", Seagate offers "Seatools")
3. Restore a pre-built image of the drive with only the software you need to do your work, including software to securely remote to your desktop at work (where the real work files are located.)
4. Pack laptop, backup software, and copy of factory image
5. Travel to foreign land.
6. If your laptop is searched, or is out of your posession and under the control of an agent of a foreign government, repeat steps (2) an (3) once you recover it. You can't trust it until you repeat those steps. Like a poster above, be concerned about the presence of keyloggers, sniffers, etc.
7. Use restored laptop at the work-site in the foreign country. Remote to your own workstation to pick up, or drop off any business files, agreements, data files, whatever.
8. Before returning, repeat steps 2 and 3 to protect your client's confidentiality and yours.
9. Return to your home country. If laptop out of your personal posession/control, or searched again on return, repeat step 2, then restore your "working" image when you get back to your own workstation.

Not only does this protect your confidentiality, but it may also help protect you from search/seizure when data you have on your hard drive contravenes local laws in the foreign country. For instance, here's a wikipedia link that may be of interest to travellers: List of books banned by governments [wikipedia.org]

Were you to have one of the publications on your hard drive in digital format, and were travelling to a country that banned import of it, you could find yourself in legal difficulties.

Re:Note to self: buy another laptop (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233027)

Step 1:
Encrypt sensitive information in case of theft - digital or physical.

Step 2:
Travel with your laptop as if the Constitution was still in effect.

Re:Note to self: buy another laptop (2, Insightful)

a-zarkon! (1030790) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233009)

If you've got nothing to hide, what are you worried about? Think of the children.

Once it's out of your hands, I think the only safe course of action is to assume that they've made a bit-for-bit copy of the drive and installed a persistent, impossible-to-detect back door. Chances are slim that they're actually doing this, but the technology exists and since there is no way for you to know that this didn't happen I think you need to assume that it did. The costs of transmitting and storing the contents of your drive to the .gov agency of your choice is pretty low. Cost to analyze is somewhat higher, but still within the realm of possibility.

As many others have pointed out, if your data really is that sensitive leave it at home. I'd think twice about accessing it remotely too.

It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Five Days? (5, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232531)

Unless there are nuclear bomb plans on the desktop, why would we be holding these devices for any days? Why are searching people's data anyways, when any serious criminal could simply upload their data to a server, drop it in a Dropbox account, or just encrypt it before crossing the border?

We need to be encouraging tourism and business travelers, not pulling this crap.

Re:Five Days? (2, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233013)

Unless there are nuclear bomb plans on the desktop, why would we be holding these devices for any days? Why are searching people's data anyways, when any serious criminal could simply upload their data to a server, drop it in a Dropbox account, or just encrypt it before crossing the border?

We need to be encouraging tourism and business travelers, not pulling this crap.

DHS isn't about criminals, it's about gaining more control over normal people.

What if I refuse to reveal a password? (3, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232545)

How do I know the data retrieved has been destroyed? After the way the government handled the MLB players confidential drug results I do not have confidence in their ethics.

Re:What if I refuse to reveal a password? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232759)

In the US you are fine, it is covered by the 5th. But be careful because apparently, or at least how I can see the decision being interpenetrated if you corporate with the police that constitutes a waiver of your 5th.

Re:What if I refuse to reveal a password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232789)

Government ethics??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.... You crack me up....

Re:What if I refuse to reveal a password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29233111)

The government will send you a copy of your shredded bits.

Idiots are only slightly smarter (1, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232547)

Right to look at is NOT and never has been a right to copy. Nor is it a right to take. The amount of time it takes you to look at something in depth does not suddenly grant you the right to take it for extended periods of time. The right to look at a briefcase and check for bombs does not give you the right to take it and spend 10 days doing a DNA, chemical analysis, fingerprint check etc. Similarly you can't take a computer and do the massive search.

Not forever, not for 30 days, not for 5 days, not even for one hour. Even that hour is a strecth. Anything more requires a warrant.

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.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.

Re:Idiots are only slightly smarter (4, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232977)

They've already ruled that copying is stealing. Funny how that only applies to us...

Re:Idiots are only slightly smarter (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233001)

Enough of this quoting the Fourth Amendment. This is not about searches when you are getting onto an airplane. This is about searches when you pass through Customs. The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that the 4th Amendment does not apply. Searching laptops is an extension to modern technology of practices that were going on when the people who WROTE the Constitution were still running the country.
That doesn't mean that this is completely ok. It just means that it has ample precedent to not being un-constitutional.

copy of information (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232579)

They're welcome to hang only my truecrypt volume as long as they like.

5th Amendment FTW

Metalhead Border Agents (1)

phoric (833867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232611)

The US Border Patrol advertises it's job openings on a local Metal radio station (Washington State). These are the people that are seizing your data.

Can you install a kill switch on a laptop? (1)

neo (4625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232627)

They can't take something that looks like a laptop but is in reality a paper weight, right? So if I have a kill switch that makes the laptop not work what are they going to do? They would probably still take it but if they can't BOOT the thing... if it doesn't even work... what can they do?

Madmax had his kill switch tied to explosives... but I guess that would be a "no no".

Re:Can you install a kill switch on a laptop? (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232959)

What if it's legitimately broken? I was carrying one of those through airport security once -- what happens if they say "Boot it" and you say "can't, the PSU is fried"?

Destroyed (2, Insightful)

SmithKrieg (954547) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232641)

Rest assured, by "destroyed" they mean that their printed copies of your private files will be discarded into their unlocked dumpster out back. And certainly while your secrets are floating around within their IT environment, they are completely safe since the DHS employees are doing infosec really well.

Homeland Security Should (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232649)

search the spider-hole of this war criminal [google.com] .

Thanks for your support of freedom and democracy.

Yours In Novy Urengoy,
Kilgore Trout

How courteous. (1)

Snarkalicious (1589343) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232801)

I'm not used to having the cock spit on before it's stuck in.

So by "changes" you mean "keeps" (1)

Crashspeeder (1468723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232819)

Clearly this means there is no change in their policies. Supervisors may make a decision (shake the magic 8 ball) here or there but after a while (an hour or so) they'll decide they're far too busy (lazy) to "rule" on these cases and tell their subbordinates (lunch buddies) to decide for themselves. At least it's a step in the right direction (We answer to no one)!

Interesting (2, Interesting)

KingPin27 (1290730) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232861)

So what about from the viewpoint of someone travelling into the United States from out of the country? Can we expect the right to privacy or would we be beholden to the same ritual? As a Canadian, who often travels into the U.S, can I expect that my laptop could, essentially, be seized because the powers that be just want to take it? Can I demand a warrant for the seizure of my laptop? I wonder if they would lock me up for demanding a warrant then lose the key sort of thing.

The U.S is fast becoming a police state -- kind of scary the lack of freedom within the Constitution and its amendments.

Can still smuggle covert data into the US... (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232943)

Even if there *were* something nefarious someone could do with a few million bits on a computer, this sort of thing won't stop them.

If I want to get into the US with the Blueprints for the Big Terrorist Plot, all I have to do is encrypt them and upload them somewhere (terrorists can use gmail too!), come into the US with a machine with nothing on it, then get inside and download it again.

Flash memory cards have gotten big enough that you can store practically anything you want on one of them. What's to stop someone from buying a 32GB Compact Flash card, putting a couple of random cat pictures on it along with 31.9GB of Evil Terrorist Plot Data encrypted in a hidden filesystem, shoving it in a camera, and waltzing merrily through the checkpoint? Somehow I doubt they are willing to low-level-format every CF card that comes through the door. And, even if they do that, you can always just put it on a SD card and shove it up your butt.

Seriously, do they really think that they're going to be able to stop people from importing Evil Bits into the US?

Re:Can still smuggle covert data into the US... (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29233043)

Some of us would prefer microSD for up-butt shoving.
To each his own, though.

Why hold them at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29232969)

Holding a laptop seems like an exercise in futility and something meant to be more Owellian that to actually accomplish anything. With the ability to convert micro SD cards to USB these days, if I were trying to smuggle in or out anything sensitive, "HELLO, I'D PUT IN ON A MICRO SD AND STASH IT ON ME SOMEWHERE". Hell if you wanted you could fit one in a wrist watch if you wanted to get Maxwell Smart about it.

Pfew... (2, Interesting)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 4 years ago | (#29232973)

'The long-criticized practice of searching travelers' electronic devices will continue, but a supervisor now would need to approve holding a device for more than five days. Any copies of information taken from travelers' machines would be destroyed within days if there were no legal reason to hold the information.'"
That will really help. Terrorism is always a legal reason; and nowadays even thought-crime is being used as a reason to imprison people (yes! see gitmo). They have no business with my private information. No matter if those are love letters or plans for a bomb of some type. I will crypt the data. You copy the data, but I get to keep the hardware, right? Why can't they publicise it that way? Why the delay of five days? It is an ineffective policy and an ineffective change. They still pester people for no reason.

New geek bumper sticker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29233095)

"You can have my laptop when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."ï

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