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Examining the Search and Seizure of Electronics at Airports

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the your-iphone-is-a-threat-to-national-security dept.

Privacy 699

Angus McKraken brings us a Washington Post story about how travelers are seeking more well-defined policies and rules about the search and seizure of electronic devices by U.S. Customs officials. The EFF has already taken legal action over similar concerns. We recently discussed the related issue of requiring people to disclose their passwords in order to search their private data. From the Post: "Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda, said her company laptop was seized by a federal agent as she was flying from Dulles International Airport to London in December 2006. Udy, a British citizen, said the agent told her he had 'a security concern' with her. 'I was basically given the option of handing over my laptop or not getting on that flight,' she said. 'I was assured that my laptop would be given back to me in 10 or 15 days,' said Udy, who continues to fly into and out of the United States. She said the federal agent copied her log-on and password, and asked her to show him a recent document and how she gains access to Microsoft Word. She was asked to pull up her e-mail but could not because of lack of Internet access. With ACTE's help, she pressed for relief. More than a year later, Udy has received neither her laptop nor an explanation."

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United Police State of America (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369220)

Y'all just keep on sleepwalking, the government is taking care of everything...

Re:United Police State of America (5, Interesting)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369370)

I took a flight once from Dulles to Dublin. They told me my laptop tested positive for nitro glycerin. I said "so?" They said "well nitro glycerin is in a lot of hand lotions" "Then I used hand lotion." The TSA is really hit or miss. I had to take off my flip flop sandals at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans. "You call these shoes?" "They're footwear" And they were patting down a disabled WWII vet in a wheelchair. I told the fresh out of high school kid that he should be embarrassed. That old guy obviously hates America. You're really at their mercy though.

Re:United Police State of America (2, Interesting)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369598)

Two of us flew out of Denver a couple of years ago during the ski season. My skis tested positive for explosives - normal if it has snowed recently and they have been triggering avalanches - and my friend's ski boots tested positive.

The boots were in her suitcase. The guys got to rummage through her underwear. She was *not* amused. I understand female celebrities tend to mail their underwear home for just that reason.

This theft of laptops at airports is in a different class though, those guys have been given too much power.

Re:United Police State of America (2, Informative)

matria (157464) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369700)

that's glycerine in hand lotion. Somebody is pulling somebody's finger here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerol [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitroglycerin [wikipedia.org]

Re:United Police State of America (3, Interesting)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369770)

I never argued that, I just went along with the path that posed the least resistance. I say "hey, there's no nitro in hand lotion" I'm on a one-way flight to Cuba.

Re:United Police State of America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369756)

And they were patting down a disabled WWII vet in a wheelchair. I told the fresh out of high school kid that he should be embarrassed.

Timothy McVeigh was a veteran.

Re:United Police State of America (2, Funny)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369792)

Tim McVeigh wasn't a disabled octogenarian.

Re:United Police State of America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369822)

Nor will he ever be one. But do you think he might have mellowed with age?

Re:United Police State of America (4, Interesting)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369838)

And they were patting down a disabled WWII vet in a wheelchair.

You've never seen "Day of the Jackal" (the oringal version)? The asassin has a sniper rifle broken down and made into a set of crutches, for an old war veteran...

If you;re going to search people at all, you really should be searching people with large pieces of metal piping, no matter what medals they're wearing.

Yeah, I know, a "movie threat". Still, profiling people to wave through is as bad as profiling people to give a hard time to. Both allow an enemy to game the system

Customs agent's kid . . . needed a laptop . . . (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369254)

. . . this is all part of that One Laptop Per Child thingie . . .happens all the time at airports, or roadside checkpoints in Africa . . .

. . . nothing new here, move along, sans laptop . . .

Re:Customs agent's kid . . . needed a laptop . . . (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369820)

. . . this is all part of that One Laptop Per Child thingie . . .
You sure? To me, it's more like "leave all laptops behind"...

Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (5, Interesting)

OldBaldGuy (734575) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369258)

If you RTFA, the examples appear to be cases of traveling while being Muslim, Middle Eastern or Asian. Any examples of Nordic blondes or Irish Redheads getting the same treatment?

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369358)

No, life is pretty good for us.

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (5, Interesting)

PetriBORG (518266) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369410)

Either Muslim, or Middle Eastern, or South Asian too... But yeah I'd agree it would appear that its racial.

What I think is maybe most disgusting though is that we're so pathetic as to accept this abuse. I travel to Asia with my wife - who is Chinese - quite a bit and the TSA and Customs people are always the worst. All I'm interested in is getting to my destination, but we all have to be treated like sheep to these people!

I've always avoided bringing the laptop on the plane because of weight, but they are even going after iPods and cell-phone data - going as far as to copy all of your contacts, call history, and take the SIM chip out of your phone. How am I supposed to call for a ride because my phone won't work w/o the SIM chip in it...

I can always use dm-crypt or true-crypt on my laptop but how the hell am I supposed to deal with them taking my terrorist iPod and phone? God forbid I try and bring an iPhone on the plane!

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369422)

Nordic Blondes and Irish redheads get frisked pretty throughly. If they are very large breasted then we have to really check them over, make them get naked, take photos, oil them up and take more photos, etc...

it's all in the name of security! If we did not do this terrorists would be blowing up EVERYTHING!!!!

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (1)

PetriBORG (518266) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369494)

Nordic Blondes and Irish redheads get frisked pretty throughly. If they are very large breasted then we have to really check them over, make them get naked, take photos, oil them up and take more photos, etc...

it's all in the name of security! If we did not do this terrorists would be blowing up EVERYTHING!!!!
Maybe they are worried that the buxom beauties will take off their tops and distract the pilots causing the plane to crash! Clearly, they are just trying to help them subdue the desire to rip of their shirt and run free. See, its all for our safety!

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (2, Insightful)

Aaron5367 (1049126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369606)

Isn't this just what the terrorists want? Us to fear them?

What ever happened to our liberties making us great, not our lack of them?

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (5, Insightful)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369814)

What the terrorists want is to disrupt our lives, and cause fear. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. We have already lost the "war."

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (3, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369472)

I was going to say, I thought the rules were perfectly clear: You are searched like crazy if you're coming from the Middle East, North Africa, or South Asia, or your name is Mohammed or Hussein, or you look vaguely Muslim.

Of course, DHS can't actually say those rules, so instead they give out some bull about "random selection".

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (4, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369554)

For what it is worth, you see examples of both being hit in this thread-- the example of the disabled elderly vet above being one.

Let's not make it about race-- it is about seizure of property without cause.

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369724)

Of course, DHS can't actually say those rules, so instead they give out some bull about "random selection".
I wonder when they stop claiming that the airline had selected you for additional security screening.

Re:Traveling while Muslim or Middle Eastern (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369488)

Either that, or the cases they cited were chosen specifically to make us think that; until you've seen all the cases you can't know the percentage. I know plenty of white, middle-class, average Americans who have been hassled by airport security and have had items seized for no apparent reason. I believe it depends on what items the security personnel need or want that day. They seem to be a bunch of thieves who steal whatever the hell they want.

Proprietary data (-1, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369278)

It's good that this is making companies carry less data around. This means that there is less risk involved when a Chinese officer enters your hotel room and makes a copy of your hard drive. Yes, this does actually happen. Oh, sorry, did I say Chinese? I meant to say bad Americans, bad bad, always the worst in the world. Don't know what got into me there for a minute.

Re:Proprietary data (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369304)

The chinese did it so it's ok for America to do it - Idiot

Yet another reason to use linux (3, Insightful)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369282)

Lets see them figure out how to access Microsoft Word without their fancy "Start" button.

Re:Yet another reason to use linux (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369318)

Actually, they'll find that Enlightenment is superior to XP! They'll figure it out in no time because surely the people who are going to outsmart terrorist masterminds are smart enough to learn to use a new GUI!

Re:Yet another reason to use linux (5, Insightful)

pdwalker (113292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369484)

All it means is that those retards would be more likely to confiscate it because they don't recognize what it is.

wow! (2, Funny)

A3gis (708791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369292)

The agent probably booted up World of Warcraft .. to check for terrorist activities of course
- guess she just has to wait til he gets his nightelf to lvl 70

Angus McKraken? (0, Offtopic)

scottv67 (731709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369300)

Angus McKraken brings us a Washington Post story about...

Story submitter, are you related to Phil McKraken? I used to work with a guy named Phil McKraken. Well, I didn't really work *with* Phil but I heard him being paged on the overhead PA system quite often. He was paged at least once a day so I think he must have been fairly important.

Re:Angus McKraken? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369386)

Story submitter, are you related to Phil McKraken? I used to work with a guy named Phil McKraken. Well, I didn't really work *with* Phil but I heard him being paged on the overhead PA system quite often. He was paged at least once a day so I think he must have been fairly important.
Is your real name Scott? Are you related to Ann Reynolds? Because she has a brother named Scott, and I used to date her briefly in college.

Decoy Data (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369306)

Mobile devices have very large storage, which can be compressed to varying degrees at will, better than 50% averaged across all data types. It wouldn't be very hard to make a filesystem (or other storage type) for any of them that stores an equal amount of fake data, with a fake password, with everything compressed in the same space as an uncompressed set of real data. Such a filesystem could look just like a real filesystem in every way, including total size, but hide the real data behind fake data and fake password. If it's all encrypted, it would be very hard to tell the difference, especially in an airport screening line.

Of course, that would probably violate some law. And "only the bad guys" would do it. But if those bad guys actually have something to hide that also violates those security laws, then of course they'll break that law's "coverup" prohibitions, too.

Terrorist and other criminal orgs with enough resources to be a real threat, and carry notebooks and phones around on flights they don't just blow up, will be able to afford such a filesystem. And once there is one in the wild, anyone will get it, probably for free.

So this is yet another stupid simcurity (simulated security) measure. It's intimidation of everyone to scare us into thinking our government is "doing something severe" to terrorists, when it's just abusing our own freedom. While wasting everyone's time, eroding our trust of our government, and letting the terrorists go free.

Sounds like they're already using sophisticated decoys at DHS: fake security to hide the dangerous absence of any real security.

Re:Decoy Data (1)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369620)

or maybe the U.S. government is just gathering data on how far they can push their citizens. Useful info.

Re:Decoy Data (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369862)

or maybe the U.S. government is just gathering data on how far they can push their citizens. Useful info.

Probably the 'Stanford Prison Experiment' [prisonexp.org] on a larger scale?

CC.

Re:Decoy Data (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369626)

Yeah, it's called TrueCrypt, and I use it everyday.

Re:Decoy Data (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369632)

I'm pretty sure you can do a similar thing with TrueCrypt's Hidden Volumes. You might want to give it a try if you're really interested in this stuff.

secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effec (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369690)

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:Decoy Data (1)

Dielectric (266217) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369736)

Wrong branch, buddy. What you really want is Steganography, where you hide the good data in other more innocuous data. The trick is coming up with plausible deniability. If they see a program called Super Stenographer in your Start Menu, you're busted. You are required by federal law to disclose relevant passwords during a search, just like handing the keys to your car over to a police officer during a "probable cause" search. However, if you keep your decryption program off of the machine on a removable disk, there's a good chance they won't find it in a regular screening search. I think it's better to keep sensitive data off of anything that travels into an uncontrolled environment, which to me means anywhere outside of my data center. If you don't have it, they can't get it either.

Re:Decoy Data (2, Informative)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369760)

There's a simple fix to this. TrueCrypt supports hidden volumes. So you create a TrueCrypt encrypted volume, say of 2GB in size. Then you put a couple megabytes of data in it. Then you create the hidden volume within the encrypted volume, and put your real private data in there, using a different passphrase to encrypt the two volumes.

Now when someone looks at your hard disk they see a single 2GB encrypted volume. They can get your password and decrypt that volume, but they can't see the second encrypted volume within the first. And because all of the data is encrypted you cannot tell the whitespace from encrypted data on the disk. It's pretty slick actually.

I'd like to think that if I were confronted with this that I would tell the TSA agent to fuck off, then point out that anyone who wanted to get "contraband" material into or outside of the country wouldn't store it on their laptop to begin with. They'd put it on a memory stick that's hidden in their suitcase, or, more likely, keep in on a server outside of the US and access it remotely from a free WiFi AP at Panera. But once again we have security theatre at it's best.

Corporate Data and Spying (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369848)

Who is to say what they do with the data once copied on the computer. European countries are already paranoid that the USA is snooping their companies to hand over data to US firms. I doubt this will do anything to reassure them.

Truth is, this is likely to encourage companies to a: use a securId on their computers or b: not to put corporate data on the computer and make it only accessible via a corporate VPN. Also, this is likely to make Toronto and Vancouver more popular as hubs for people not stopping in the USA. I know a fair amount of Canadians who would pay a bit extra just to avoid having to transit through the states because of the "warm welcome" of DHS. Nothing is worse that having to go though immigrations twice when flying to Canada (once in the USA and once in Canada).

Between the war in Iraq, the alienating of our allies and discouraging people flying through the USA, unless as a final destination, I can't say our government is helping our country's economy one bit.

ship it first (1)

dammy (131759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369330)

Just ship the laptop/cellphone/pda to your destination first so it will be there prior to your arrival. Ship it back prior to your departure and avoid the headaches. With cheap laptops like EEE PC, it's a minor business expense to have a travelling light laptop shipped back and forth.

Re:ship it first (1)

eharvill (991859) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369450)

Or just put it in your checked baggage.

Not checked baggage (2, Informative)

localroger (258128) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369516)

You're strongly advised against that because you're also not allowed to lock your luggage any more, and the strong possibility of it getting stolen. Ship overnight insured, or just take your data on a key drive and use a computer that's already there when you land.

not the answer (5, Insightful)

tacokill (531275) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369730)

The answer, of course, is to rely on your employer. Let me explain.

Go ahead and fight them. I mean - do not let them search your laptop until forced to do so. Cite your company's information as the reason. Perhaps individual privacy is gone but we still have some sanctity for corporate data. It doesn't even have to be trademark/copyright/legally protected data. It just has to be data that your company deems 'private and confidential'. If people start missing flights because of over-ambitious TSA agents, eventually, businesses will start screaming about these searches....if they aren't already. Not only are they overly intrusive but they are causing losses in a very real way. Measurable losses.

Anyone from Oracle or MSFT read this post? How would you feel about your laptop being held like this? How about someone from Adobe or Boeing? What about the big-3 car companies? Consulting companies?

There are lots of businesses that require international travel and I am betting they don't want some $10.50/hr TSA employee reading your laptop anymore than you do. I expect employers to enter the fray any second now. They will not stand for this unless there are some checks and balances. They have no interest in writing off confiscated assets because of over zealous TSA agents and they are (unfortunately) our best defense.

Can you do this? (2, Insightful)

yabos (719499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369332)

If you don't want your stuff taken can't you just tell them to fuck off and leave the airport. That is if you're in your own country I mean.

Re:Can you do this? (5, Insightful)

MichaelKaiserProScri (691448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369380)

I am unclear if that is being offered as an option. If I cannot take my laptop with me on a business trip, there is no point in doing the trip. I am a Software Engineer and my laptop is the primary tool with which I do my job. If I do not have it, I cannot work. Furthermore, in many cases the contents of my laptop are far more valuable than the device itself. As far as I am concerned, the device is disposable, the data is what is valuable. Yes, I keep a backup, but there is always that last little bit I have just done that is not in the backup yet....

Re:Can you do this? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369534)

Carry a USB thumbdrive containing your bootable operating system and toolset and another USB thumbdrive containing all your source code, data, documentation, etc. Also, carry a USB thumbdrive containing useless content which you are willing to surrender to the fascist overlords. Keep the real thumbdrives in a pcoet inside your jacket maybe disguised as a pack of gum.

When I traveled on military projects I used to line "You do not have the necessary security clearance. But you can telephone General X if you really insist." I was able to glide through security screening without a problem.

Sure -- you just miss your flight. (4, Insightful)

localroger (258128) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369420)

And I'm pretty sure you don't get your airfare back. And you probably get on a list that makes sure it will happen every single time you ever try to fly again in the future. The stupid thing here is she did everything they asked, and they still stole her laptop. I can't see any rationalization for that.

Re:Can you do this? (1, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369448)

Yes you do have the option to tell them to Fuck-off.

That gives you the free anal cavity search option. and no you cant just walk away from them, that let's them tase you and then anal search you. Every single TSA agent has a major anus fetish going, when you pay them $11.50 an hour you cant be picky, so they hire them fresh from the prisons.

Re:Can you do this? (1, Redundant)

yabos (719499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369476)

That's what's BS about this whole TSA crap. You go into a private building and they don't let you leave under your own will, basically holding you hostage if they think they have any reason to do it. You should be allowed to leave the airport if they don't want to let you on the plane without searching your ass.

not that i'd really want to (1)

memnock (466995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369344)

myself, but what if you shipped your laptop to and from wherever you were going by
FedEx or whatever?

i don't travel much and probably wouldn't take my laptop anyway, so i don't worry about it, but this is beyond intrusive and annoying.

Re:not that i'd really want to (2, Insightful)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369566)

myself, but what if you shipped your laptop to and from wherever you were going by
FedEx or whatever?

They still open the package in the customs and charge you heavily just for opening it. And they can do whatever they want to with it while it's there, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Therefore, many layers of TrueCrypt, fake data, semi-real data, and what-not else...
What does TSA stand for, anyway? Techno Stasi of America?

Well you gotta understand. (1)

skulgnome (1114401) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369346)

A security guard's pay is minimal. They're just doing whatever they can to make ends meet.

One more reason not to visit US (3, Insightful)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369352)

What a great way to find out about company secrets. And if they are on an encrypted volume? Dare you travel there anymore?

Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369374)

where a traveler would be better off shipping his or her laptop separately rather than trying to take it on a plane. This is starting to get out of hand: confiscating personal property without cause? What the Hell? The government must be running short on laptops, I guess. Twenty years ago I'd have said this could never happen here, if anyone had asked. Sorry to see that I'd have been wrong.

In 1984, I remember my aunt flew from Chicago to Boston, with a .44 Magnum and a box of cartridges in her suitcase. Nobody noticed, nobody cared, she didn't even think twice about it (I'll tell you though, had there been any boxcutter-wielding bastards on that plane she'd have killed them all. You don't know my aunt.) Can you imagine trying that today? One group of Islamic assholes causes some damage and just look at what we've done to ourselves.

I'm still proud of my country but not as much as I used to be. That bothers me. What also bothers me is that bad behavior on the part of the TSA and other government organs is in danger of becoming institutionalized, which will make it very difficult to eliminate.

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (-1, Troll)

ScaryMonkey (886119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369454)

While I appreciate and support the sentiment, I'm afraid I have to point out that in the situation you posit, your feisty aunt would likely kill everyone on the plane when her .44 blew a hole through the perp and into the fuselage, causing a violent decompression. Security from terrorists aside there are good reasons to disallow firearms on airplanes.

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369496)

The explosive decompression is just an urban legend [bbc.co.uk] . Please stop repeating it.

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369688)

It's not exactly safe, though:

"It's not all fiction. If an airliner's window was shattered, the person sitting beside it would either go out the hole or plug it - which would not be comfortable."
Hardly 'explosive decompression', but it has happened (people going out those windows, not the windows being shot out).

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369740)

The point is not everyone would be killed at once as indicated by the great grandparent.

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (2, Informative)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369508)

when her .44 blew a hole through the perp and into the fuselage, causing a violent decompression
Ahem... [kwc.org]

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369564)

When I worked at UPS, there was a 727 there that had been shot several times (5 or 6 times I think) when it was still a passenger aircraft (from about 35k ft with a 38; you could also find the patches if you knew where to look). It caused no problems other than freaking out the passengers. The plane didn't decompress and it landed safely.

Commercial aircraft are a little more durable than that. Ask any pilot.

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369602)

Oh, I'm well aware of that and I knew someone would point it out (this being Slashdot) but that's only an issue if the plane is traveling at cruising altitude. If you're going to shoot a terrorist, wait until the plane is down to a couple thousand feet. You can survive a few holes then (hell, a plane coming in to Florida some years ago lost a good part of the upper fuselage, and other than one flight attendant being sucked out, nobody else was killed.)

Whether or not passengers should be armed or not is really a separate issue, I was just commenting on the difference between how we perceive security since that time (although a heavily-armed populace tends to be secure against people with boxcutter knives.) Sure, if some security person had noticed that gun, it would have been confiscated, she might have been questioned, but there wouldn't have been much more to it than that. Nowadays ... well, I'd probably be visiting her in prison, because the presumption would be that she intended to do harm with that weapon. Guilty, and we don't much care if you're innocent. Back then, the presumption would have been that she made a mistake.

More to the point, it's hard for me to understand how stealing laptops helps me be more secure (if you confiscate something and never return it, well, pretty much you just stole it.) Demonstrating that a device functions as expected ... okay, I guess I can buy that. At least you know it's not a dummy packed full of C4. But insisting that passengers reveal passwords, and then just confiscating the equipment anyway? What is going on here? The government can call it "intelligence gathering" if it wants, but this is way out of line.

Time for that TrueCrypt partition, I guess.

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (1)

ari{Dal} (68669) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369786)

Except that a small hole in a plane's fuselage won't cause violent decompression. Mythbusters very effectively busted that myth quite some time back. Hell, there are documented cases of planes losing entire chunks of fuselage due to stress and corrosion and landing successfully (see Aloha Airlines Flight 243).

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (1)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369828)

Highly unlikely. At least it's highly unlikely EVERYONE would die. There's been instances of explosive decompression (and all from holes much bigger than a bullet hole) where the plane has gone on to safely land. Hell, an entire section of roof blew off an airliner (Aloha Airlines Flight 243), and the only death was a stewardess, who was not buckled in to a seat.

Fact is, a bullet hole (or 2, or 3, or 6) are not large enough to cause catastrophic explosive decompression capable of killing everyone on board.

Mythbusters, while not exactly highly scientific also tested the myth. They sealed a 737 and pressurized it so that the difference in air pressure was the same as if the plane had been at something like 30,000 feet. Bullet holes did nothing. They had to actually resort to explosives to get any kind of result, and even then only the dummy's arm was sucked out the hole.

You're also assuming that she would hit the walls of the plane. There's a good chance a gun battle would be fought up and down the airliner from one end to the other, not from across the aisles. This means there's a good chance the bullets would strike seats, passengers, or bulkheads instead of the fuselage. Even though a .44 round is a pretty hefty round, it might not have enough energy after "blowing a hole through a perp" to even penetrate the fuselage (a lot of this would depend on the type of bullet).

I believe Boeing has also done tests that show it to be safe. And there's also been incidents of terrorists discharging small arms fire inside airliners, with no explosive decompression.

And if there was a serious threat of this, do you really think the FAA and the Airline Pilots Association (or whatever it's called) would have voted to allow air marshals to carry pistols?

A few instances of explosive decompression resulting from holes much more serious than a bullet hole(s):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines_Flight_811 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloha_Airlines_Flight_243 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Airlines_Flight_96 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_5390 [wikipedia.org]



And an article: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=26481 [worldnetdaily.com]

Re:Sounds like it's getting to the point ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369580)

She's lucky it wasn't stolen. In the 80's I was losing so much stuff to theft from bags that I quite packing things like camera and radio. Hell, in the 70's, the good American police tried to arrest us using their personal weed as evidence. We had none of our own. They were too stupid to be a real threat. It was worse in Ecuador where I had to scurry away from a disagreement being settled with automatic weapons and hand granades. Ended up being deported because someone didn't receive their bribe. It was not so bad in China in the 70's. The secret police were not very good and quite corrupt. Give up a bit of porn and some whiskey, and they'd leave you alone for days. Then there was the attractive female agent from China who I met in Fiji. She spent 6 months in the sack with me before she realized I was just some yahoo who liked to travel and not a spy :-). So you can see, it's not all bad.

Better to store data encrypted on intnl website (1)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369638)

In a situation like this, it is best to remember that the laptop is just a tool for accessing the data, and not primarily a storage for data.

    It would be a better alternative to have the data stored on an internationally accessible website in an encrypted format. Then when you need to work, get a laptop or an internet cafe where you can run your own programs. Download the encryption program from the website. Download your data. Work it and when finished, re-encrypt the new data and upload it to the website.

    Yes, I know, all websites are international, ect.... But this isn't college. You want to use a website that isn't going to draw the attention of the people who are monitoring your internet session. Yes, you say that I'm being paranoid. Shit, grow up, places like Singapore, China, and Malaysia, and many others, exist where people just like you are going to be monitored. Learn to live with it.

    And learn how to get work done discretely, effectively, and privately while being monitored by paranoid, mentally-defective assholes who have the authority to do any fucking thing that they want, and not a clue of what to do. (like Americans in uniforms).

Theft (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369390)

So, basicly the customs officials are allowed to steal people's belongings when ever they feel like it.

And people wonder why I never leave Canada...

TrueCrypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369394)

I'd say use TrueCrypt for all files you want to keep private, with a hidden volume within. Plausable deniability and you can hand over the password there and then for the dummy volume. With the current release and the ability to encrypt whole disks from boot, there's no reason not to use it.

Screw them. I know I'd not give over a password to my laptop on principle, even if it meant a lost flight.

Re:TrueCrypt (1)

base3 (539820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369530)

Think they haven't heard about hidden volumes? If they know you're using TrueCrypt, they'll say, oh, that's nice, thank you, then they'll detain you until you give up the hidden volume password, whether it exists or not. You might be able to sort it out in front of a judge and jury (if they believe you) later, but you'll still miss your flight.

Re:TrueCrypt (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369634)

Well, what if you have have two hidden volumes?

First you give the password for the "normal" encrypted volume.

Then when they ask you for the hidden volume, you first hesitate, and then give them the password for the safe hidden partition. That partition should contain stuff which doesn't get you in trouble, but for which it's plausible that you wouldn't want anyone to see it. I guess they won't assume you have a second hidden volume.

Get it in writing... (3, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369404)

When he took it and you were "guaranteed" you would get it back in a few days, ask for it in writing, on headed paper, signed by the guy who took your laptop and his supervisor.

... and miss your plane. (4, Insightful)

krischik (781389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369470)

While you are right doing so will take so long that you will miss your plane. In fact creating/using tight time contrainst is one of the three main ingredinence for any kind con jobs to cheat you out of your property.

Re:... and miss your plane. (1)

TuomasK (631731) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369772)

So what are the two other ingredients? :)

Is this the United States or some banana republic? (4, Insightful)

rpp3po (641313) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369408)

Can't believe this happening in a country which promotes itself as a global exporter of freedom. Do Americans just sit at home and watch this as just another ironic comedy on their TVs?

Re:Is this the United States or some banana republ (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369544)

Well, they free you from your laptop. Isn't that a way to increase your freedom?

Re:Is this the United States or some banana republ (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369550)

Depends what the definition of "freedom" (nee is) is.

Yes and Yes to your questions.

It's caused by the mixing of functions of our government; legislative, executive, judicial. Used to be the police, at all levels, were executive. Judges disciplined them severely for dishonesty or even stupidity and incompetence. No more, police are now Officers of the Court, and judges close ranks behind their employees (see Terry Schiavo).

TSA is just another police agency and the judge you appear before will defend ANYTHING they do.

Yes, now we're just another banana republic, just look at the power of a Home Owners Association.

Re:Is this the United States or some banana republ (1)

uffe_nordholm (1187961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369628)

I fear you have misphrased your question. From Europe, where I live, it appears that the USA is getting more and more like a banana republic every day. Previously I would have considered 'USA' and 'banana republic' to be mutually exclusive, but I have had to change that opinion.

You know why you can't get relief? (4, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369428)

Each component of the system, that is supposed to be separate, is in bed with those it is supposed to be a check against. This wouldn't surprise anyone who has paid attention to the way that police officers are treated by judges and prosecutors, especially in "liberal areas" for abusing their authority. In places like Northern Virginia, one of the bluest parts of the country, the prosecutors won't touch a cop who shoots and kills someone in a criminal way while on duty. The very argument for giving them their extra powers over the public is that they're professionals with how they use it, and yet they're more likely to be treated like a well-meaning retarded child with a handgun rather than a professional for whom human error should almost invariably be regarded at first blush as criminal negligence.

The prosecutors will rarely try them, the judges will rarely sanction prosecutors who do things like hound a guy they know is innocent, etc. Why? Because in general, the people in law enforcement, the DA's office and the judiciary are bad apples, with a few good ones mixed in. This applies to federal agencies as well.

Use Fedex instead (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369432)

Just assume *all* items not directly related to the actual flight will be taken. Ship in your tools to your site via fedex/ups/usps and avoid the hassle ( and less to carry ).

Good! (2, Funny)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369438)

This is a very good thing.

Not only will it promote the whole idea of Freedom and help spread democracy in a non violent way, but as a result we will see that people will stop carrying around laptops or other portable storage devices.

And THAT is a good thing. We will soon see a sharp decline of missing or stolen sensitive personal or company data, so this is good for our privacy.

Instead people will start using VPN to get to their data.

2 options.... (1)

teeloo (766817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369444)

A) Work with all documents remotely.
B) If you really need to have your documents locally, just get a Mac and use Bootcamp and set it up to have one of the partitions blank, or nearly blank (a "dummy" bootup). So when they ask you to show your documents, you can show them that its a blank laptop. I doubt that they would be able to tell tell that there are other partitions on there.
The important point is that you need to appease these customs people on the spot. DO NOT show any sort of defiance. Just play along and show them whatever they need to know in a calm and collected manner. Its very easy to fool them. Yes you can beat the system - it just takes a bit of planning.

Re:2 options.... (5, Informative)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369514)

This can also be done with a normal PC and OSx86. My install will not boot into Mac OS without the install DVD in the drive. I do my work in Mac, put the DVD in my checked bag, then get on the plane. It'll boot straight into Windows without the disc, and since Windows can't read HFS+ it doesn't see the Mac partition.

Re:2 options.... (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369584)

On the point of beating the system... You can get weed through the TSA on internal flights easier than you can get 3.5 oz of deodorant.

To me that says any kind of solid explosive will get on the plane if it is in a non-conventional shape. So we are giving up tons of freedom for almost no protection.

I see a bright future for laptop rentals (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369446)

If this keeps up I'll just bring my data on a USB key drive, and if they start searching or seizing those I'll hide it inside something innocuous. Lots of jobs I don't even take my computer any more because I just use my customer's computer.

Re:I see a bright future for laptop rentals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369596)

You could coat a micro-SD card in wax, which your body can't digest, and then eat it. Unless it got lodged in your colon, in which case you'd have more problems than losing an SD card, you'd be able to poop it out and use it.

As far as I am aware, unless you consent to it, no one can X-Ray you.

Ohh man.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369458)

With all of this crap happening, I believe less people wants to do business with the united states. They got over-paranoid at trying to control what goes in-and-out of their country, and it irritates people over time. I really don't want to flamebait, but this is a racist issue? How many stories like that have we heard in the past years of people from the middle east having problem crossing the borders of the states?

guilty until proven otherwise (4, Interesting)

bazorg (911295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369462)

interesting quote from TFA: Your kid can be arrested because they can't prove the songs they downloaded to their iPod were legally downloaded. Oh goody, when I immigrated to the UK I brought the MP3s but left the CDs behind. Got to remember leaving all music behind if travelling to the USA.

Oh, and my laptop might be tricky to search... I wonder what procedures they have in place for people travelling with computers running alternative operating systems or simply in a language the officer cannot understand. 200 translators waiting behind the security booth? sounds practical.

Re:guilty until proven otherwise (1)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369796)

Oh, and my laptop might be tricky to search... I wonder what procedures they have in place for people travelling with computers running alternative operating systems or simply in a language the officer cannot understand. 200 translators waiting behind the security booth? sounds practical.

The article title is "Examining the Search and Seizure of Electronics at Airports". What part of "Seizure" don't you comprehend? This is one place where running a non-Windows PC doesn't help you at all. In fact, it probably hurts you by guaranteeing that your laptop will be confiscated instead of merely searched.
BTW, from what I had heard they were only allowed to do this to non-citizens are ports of entry/exit. If you're a citizen or travelling on a domestic flight you should be OK, right?

Re:guilty until proven otherwise (4, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369800)

The procedure is this: they take your laptop and you don't get it back.

Shouldda Waited (1)

cslax (1215816) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369466)

She shouldda waited for that Supreme Court case that said divulging your password was a violation of your 5th amendment right.

Re:Shouldda Waited (5, Insightful)

QCompson (675963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369750)

She shouldda waited for that Supreme Court case that said divulging your password was a violation of your 5th amendment right.
Don't get ahead of yourself. It was a federal magistrate in Vermont that gave that ruling, not the Supreme Court. We have no idea what the SCOTUS would do in such a situation... especially if it involves child pornography. They've been known to make exceptions to the Constitution when it comes to child pornography.

No Holiday in the US for us. (4, Insightful)

krischik (781389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369478)

Well one more reason for me to remove the US off possible holiday destinations. Of course the poor guy was on a buisiness trip and had no choice.

Martin

Re:No Holiday in the US for us. (1)

fx242 (1222592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369578)

This is getting really scary. I would show the guards the middle finger before giving away any of my private info, and demanded to talk immediately to his superior to protest. Inspecting my laptop without a judge order is a complete offense to privacy in any free country. TL

The weak dollar *had* made it attractive... (1)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369826)

With the exchange rate, I can understand why tourists would want to visit New York, etc...

With the inhumane and degrading treatment they must endure, I can understand why they wouldn't.

Won't *someone* think of the Tour Operators????

Does the EFF Have Statisitics? (1)

pippadaisy (196729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369510)

... of, say, the rate that a cheapy 15" Toshiba back-to-school special vs. a pretty 17" MacBook running Leopard? I'm just wondering what sort of laptop the TSA is shopping for these days.

TPM, Bitlocker and my middle finger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369572)

What are three things I'll give the Government if they jack my notebook. =)

I don't travel myself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22369588)

...but even so, I keep most of my important documents stored securely in various places online. True, there is always the possibility of my data being compromised, but that's why I also sign myself up regularly for various fraud-prevention programs, etc. I do this mainly to keep from losing vital data in the event of a disaster. Everyone knows we've been having a lot of them in the mid-west of late. I even work for a company that offers a hosted computing solutions for offices who don't want any of their data out in the wild--even in their own buildings. It's a good thing, really...and I'm certain it is the future.

The only time I ever traveled by plane, I took NOTHING with me. NOTHING...well save for my ID and an American Express card. I didn't trust the folks at the airports then and this was pre-9-11. I figure wherever I travel (in other words where I would be willing to travel) there's going to be a Wal-Mart and financial facilities. If I need more clothes, go to Wal-Mart. Twenty to thirty bucks to buy an outfit most of the time. If I need money, I go to an ATM or bank.

Today, many hotels out there have business centers and there are always public libraries or internet cafes. That should easily take care of most data needs. If not, someone already suggested Fed-Ex'ing your equipment ahead of yourself. Great idea.

Obviously, we can't control our fascist, 1984-style government, but we can easily dodge some of their asshole tactics with a bit of pre-thinking.

P.S. Why don't I carry cash on plane you ask? Because most money (unless it is brand new which would throw up red flags at the security checkpoint anyway) contains cocaine residue. Believe it or not, I swear the percentage is staggering. They have machines and dogs at most airports that can detect it easily, and then your ass is theirs, literally.

Re:I don't travel myself... (2, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369782)

The only time I ever traveled by plane, I took NOTHING with me. NOTHING...well save for my ID and an American Express card.

You traveled naked? :-)

Re:I don't travel myself... (1)

scottv67 (731709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369836)

P.S. Why don't I carry cash on plane you ask? Because most money (unless it is brand new which would throw up red flags at the security checkpoint anyway)...

WTF are you talking about? How would brand new US currency throw up red flags at an airport security checkpoint? Approximately 25% of the times that I withdraw money from an ATM, the bills dispensed by the ATM are brand new US currency. Is the TSA going to detain me for visiting my credit union's ATM the night before a trip?

Sounds like her company did the right thing (4, Interesting)

Dielectric (266217) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369600)

In the article, it says that Radius went to an encrypted network to access company data. Given the recent news of stolen laptops, and the ensuing uproar over the data contained on them, it seems to me that everyone should take this approach. There are very few places that I go in the course of business that don't have some kind of network access. Even the hot dog stand down the street has free wifi, for crying out loud! Of course, you need an access scheme sufficient to keep thieves and DHS agents out of your database, but that's a solved problem with revocable certs, etc.

The note about going through the recent documents log and browser history has me concerned, though. I may set the defaults on my work machine to never-save on the history. I can think of any number of services to archive bookmarks online. The idea here is that your travel machine may be lost, stolen, broken, or compromised at any time, and we should behave as such.

It sucks that we have to protect ourselves from unreasonable search and seizure by our government, but we'll just have to deal with it for now. Not to get off on a rant here, but I think the Second Amendment should be interpreted to include strong encryption. The writers of the Constitution put that in there as a safeguard against jackbooted government thugs. In today's world, I see no political difference between a Kentucky Long Rifle and AES-128.

don't hand over the laptop - just the HDD (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22369712)

The police don't care about the keyboard, screen or memory - they are only concerned with the data on the disk. If I was given the option of handing over a $1000 laptop or a $100 disk, I'd be prepared to pop the drive and hand it to them.

I wouldn't expect the police to be capable enough or organised enough to ever retun it though. So they'd get one of my old 2GB or 6Gb disks while the "business" data is shipped separately as others have suggested or carried in hold luggage, with lots of bubblewrap around it.

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