Customs Searching, Seizing, Gadgets

Amir Khan, a Pakistani-born US Citizen, has had his laptop searched by US customs agents on five separate occasions when returning to the US from overseas. It’s no longer just rifling through your luggage, Customs is now going through laptops, Blackberries, and other gizmos, sometimes confiscating them, and sometimes never returning them. Please bend over and spread your laptop. Transcript, inside…

REPORTER: Computers are Amir Khan’s business. The Pakistani-born US citizen is an IT consultant, and always travel with at least one. But on five occasions he says customers and border patrol agents searched his computer when he returned to the US from overseas. He says they even forced him to give them access to confidential company data.

AMIR: He said even if you deny it to log me in, I will force you to log in. And so I had no choice and so I said, “can you at least show me what you’re doing?” But he didn’t listen and he just turned the laptop in a direction that I cannot see.

REPORTER: Others travelers tell similar stories. Some even had electronic devices confiscated and never returned. Laptops, cellphones, blackberries, often full of highly sensitive personal information.

DAVID COLE: Is it really like opening someone’s luggage or bag or rifling through to see if there’s any contraband in it, or is it more like a strip search.

REPORTER: To search your house, police need probable cause to believe you have commited a crime. Not so with customers and border protection searches of computers. A spokeswoman says the agency has, “Broad search authority at the borders to determine admissibility…or look for anything that may be a violation of criminal law.” She insists the agency does not racially profile. But will not say how it picks which electronic devices to search, or what is done with the information inside.

Comments

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  1. pegr says:

    Link?

  2. Randy says:

    Customs is doing a fine job – of choking international travel into this country. I’m sure we’ll see considerably less people touring the USA from overseas once it gets around that you can’t bring so much as an electric shaver into the USA without it being seized as a “WMD”. Jeez.

    As usual, the government continues the slide into Nazism where you needed papers just to shop.

  3. Randy says:

    @pegr: Watch the video. It’s a CNN thing.

  4. asujosh1 says:

    I wonder how long it will be before they stop someone that actually knows their rights and is willing to fight for them.

  5. DMDDallas says:

    @Randy: You’re confusing the nazis with the bolsheviks.

  6. bohemian says:

    @asujosh1: They will just end up locked in a holding cell in their underwear for being uncooperative.

  7. Asvetic says:

    Is this only happening to people that are coming into or going out of the country? Could this happen to me if I’m flying from PA to CA with a carry-on laptop or smart phone?

  8. junglee069 says:

    it’s cuz he’s brown.

  9. B says:

    Is Customs afraid people are smuggling drugs in their laptops? What exactly are they hoping to stop by confiscating electronics?

  10. axiomatic says:

    Steganography FTW!

  11. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I had read about this, that the government is often copying the contents of all electronics w/ storage. Such as laptop, MP3 players and PDAs. Question is, if they copy the contents of my MP3 player that has legally purchased MP3s, can the RIAA go after the government?

  12. mopar_man says:

    @Asvetic:

    Going out too. There was a story here last week about somebody that had their laptop contents downloaded upon leaving the country (to Britain or the UK I believe).

    If the US wants economic stimulus, they’re going to have to stop the bullshit. People aren’t going to come here if they’re going to have to deal with stuff like this.

  13. Aeroracere says:

    What ARE our rights involving this??

    I would like to be more informed, as a US Citizen, or what my rights when entering my home country are. Are there any sites hosting formal information pertinent to this discussion?

  14. savdavid says:

    As long as people put up with this it will only get worse.

  15. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Just another reason I refuse to fly.

  16. timmus says:

    if they copy the contents of my MP3 player that has legally purchased MP3s, can the RIAA go after the government?

    They won’t bite a hand that feeds them generously. There’s a ton of Congressmen that take contributions from the RIAA, American Intellectual Property Law Association, Sony BMG, etc, etc.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Your only right is the right to get thrown in jail if you protest. Welcome to Orwell’s 1984…

  18. alice_bunnie says:

    @Asvetic:
    Have you ever gone through customs? NO! You only go through customs entering or exiting the country. This is not TSA this is Customs.

  19. friendlynerd says:

    @Aeroracere:

    I’m sorry, your rights are classified information on a need-to-know basis. You need NOT to know in order to stay submissive.

  20. Asvetic says:

    @mopar_man: I was more curious if this was just a customs/international thing, or if I could encounter the same on domestic flights within the US.

  21. VeeKaChu says:

    It’s ludicrous- any terrorist worth his salt will just copy the “C:My DocumentsTerror Plots” folder onto an innocuous and easily over-looked USB thumb-drive prior to boarding…

  22. Asvetic says:

    @alice_bunnie: That’s what I was asking. No need to bite my head off, I didn’t know.

  23. Myotheralt says:

    @Asvetic: give it a few minutes

  24. castlecraver says:

    @B: No, if there were drugs or explosives inside a device, the x-ray scanners would find it. This is clearly rather about information that may be on the laptop.@

    Asvetic: No, AFAIK, only the customs and border patrol folks have been demanding access to international travelers’ computers. The TSA may require you to switch it on if they deem it suspect, but I’ve yet to hear of any instances where they’ve spent time searching through the files therein. In nearly all cases, they’ll just x-ray it and you’ll be done.

    @asujosh1: This is a pretty touchy legal issue. The blog “Upgrade: Travel Better” covered it briefly a few days ago, and it’s unclear whether the border area (whether it’s an actual physical border or a customs control area of an airport) is subject to the same legal protections as the rest of the country. If you’ve ever traveled by car into or out of Canada, you know you basically have to submit to any sort of a search they want, or you (best case) get turned back. This takes it a huge step further IMO if they are now indeed confiscating personal property and or collecting data off machines. The guy’s a US citizen for cryin’ out loud. Still, when you’re traveling internationally, you’re put in a bit of a compromising situation where it’s often simply easier to just waive whatever rights you think you may have in the interest of proceeding on your journey without being detained.

  25. doormat says:

    Truecrypt + hidden partitions FTW. The customs inspector wouldn’t be smart enough to find it.

    [www.truecrypt.org]

  26. Bladefist says:

    Searching the PCs is required. There is no other way to transmit data from one country to another. I heard about this FTP technology coming out someday, but it’ll be a while before its widely available.

  27. Bladefist says:

    @doormat: They are going to search your pc one way or another. TrueCrypt just gets you in more trouble in that situation.

  28. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @Bladefist:

    Google “rubberhose encryption”, since you obviously don’t know why TrueCrypt is FTW.

  29. Bladefist says:

    I know. But still. All it takes is one knowledgable person to figure it out and now you look really suspicious.

  30. CharlieSeattle says:

    Can we force them to sign NDA’s at least before searching my company laptop?

  31. cynon says:

    Welcome to the USSA.

  32. darkened says:

    @Bladefist: He’s referring to double disk encryption where you encrypt a disk twice one that you can unlock and have fake files / or meaningless files displayed when you are forced to hand over a password while the other one keeps your real files safe and secure.

    It can even be done with entire operating systems living double encrypted (whether or not true crypt supports that from boot I’m not sure there are other solutions that do if it doesn’t)

    Simple solution might be just keep a linux live cd in your cdrom and have it boot to that instead of your real os and watch them stare blankly at a linux gui

  33. Crymson_77 says:

    They would be violating the law in some cases. If my work laptop were treated in the same manner, I would have a nice case of “you’re screwed” for them as I work for a bank. There are some records that they are absolutely verboten from seeing as they contain customer information in them. This likely could fall under the invasion of privacy laws and someone should be smacked, very f-ing hard, for allowing this to occur. I hope I travel internationally soon so that I can let them know that if they so choose to “inspect” my hard drive, they very well better be ready for a long time as someone’s bitch.

  34. Crymson_77 says:

    @darkened: Pointsec is one that works well.

  35. VeeKaChu says:

    @Bladefist: I’m sorry, but explain why having strong encryption on a personal laptop make you look “suspicious”?

    Since when did the desire to protect and conceal personal information become probable cause? The mere implication is another further sign of the creeping erosion of our constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and some folks’ willingness to allow it to happen.

  36. Saboth says:

    @B:

    They would say “child porn” (which is laughable).

  37. Bladefist says:

    @VeeKaChu: Apology accepted. But I was not talking as me, I was talking for the Nazi Customs people. Get a clue.

  38. Saboth says:

    @VeeKaChu:

    I’m with you. This government has become more and more powerful, but you still have the right to keep your data/home/files/personal information personal. If that makes you look suspicious…well…that isn’t what America is supposed to be about, now is it? Freedom doesn’t mean “free…as long as you check in with the government about all your thoughts and plans”.

  39. Munsoned says:

    @DMDDallas: In either event, you’ve got to watch out for those “Commie-Nazis.”

  40. FLEB says:

    TrueCrypt just gets you in more trouble in that situation.

    @Bladefist: That’s why you have “C:TrueCrypt Drivesprivate_data.tc” full of understandable-but-innocuous information, and “C:windowssystem32dximastr.dat” is the TC file with all your juicy important data.

  41. FLEB says:

    Since when did the desire to protect and conceal personal information become probable cause?

    @VeeKaChu: It’s not probable cause so much as just “suspicion”. Specialized third-party encryption apps aren’t common, and people who go out of their way, by the nature of the program, make it clear that they are hiding something. This leads people whose job it is to uncover hidden things to press further when they find encryption software, and not to readily believe “I have nothing”.

  42. LionelEHutz says:

    So, why did we fight the cold war again? Oh yeah, I remember one reason was because the Soviet Union, E. Germany, etc…, were POLICE STATES.

    Go on youtube and look for videos of the Berlin Wall being torn down, or the borders of old Warsaw Pact countries being opened. Those people know what oppression is like, and they were happy to finally be free. Here, morons who accept the increasing security state have no idea what they are giving up. We’re quickly becoming a UK type total surveillance society, and I’m not happy about it.

  43. Great story, thanks for the transcript. Were they able to speak to anyone actually affiliated with Customs or TSA about this?

  44. Bladefist says:

    @FLEB: Thank you. I understand TrueCrypt. I too would love to have rights. I am just saying, in the chance you come across a highly intelligent individual who has chosen to work in customs, and he or she is able to determine you are using something such as TrueCrypt, he or she may deem it fun to make your life a living hell by keeping you there and forcing you to release your information. While it may appear to not be encrypted to the naked eye, I am sure trained people could figure it out. Especially now after they read this blog post.

  45. edrebber says:

    @mopar_man: People are willing to float across the ocean on a home made raft to get to the United States. This seems trivial in comparison

  46. fuzzycuffs says:

    Encryption!!! TrueCrypt!

    But there’s a really interesting debate as to whether or not providing an encryption key is considered self-incrimination. Law enforcement can force you to provide a physical object, like a key to a safe. Or, if they need to get into the safe, they can just break it open. Encryption is a bit difference. No matter what some uberHax0r tells you, the CIA or other three-letter-agencies do not have to the ability to crack modern, well designed encryption algorithms in any time period that would be cost effective. With that in mind, if some law guy wants you to provide your encryption key, it would be a case of the 5th amendment (or would it?)

    IANL, but it’s an interesting idea that hasn’t been fleshed out yet. IIRC, the story that brought this all on was a Canadian guy also going over the border. The customs agent asked to see his laptop, and he had a directory of child porn open. The agent incorrectly shut down the machine (really a no-no in the forensics world for a few reasons), and when they booted it up later at the office, they realized that the directory with all the CP was then encrypted. Now they’re trying to force the guy to give up his key, and the lawyers are fighting it out.

    TrueCrypt has a plausible deniability function in it, though. You can provide it two passwords, one for one volume and one for the other. If someone forces you to give the password, you give the password to one volume and the other remains hidden.

  47. axiomatic says:

    @doormat: Truecrypt + Steganography for the SUPER WIN!

  48. Pylon83 says:

    I have a huge problem with this, particularly with regard to US Citizens coming back into the United States. It would seem to me that a US Citizen at the boarder should be afforded their full rights under the constitution, including the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. However, I don’t take as much issue with it being done to foreign travelers. They are coming into our country, and should be willing to subject themselves to the appropriate entry requirements. It would be the same if a US Citizen were traveling to say China. It’s expected that you will likely undergo more scrutiny than a Chinese citizen would. Forcing a US citizen to allow a search of their person, private, confidential data on a laptop is a blatant violation of the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. Hopefully someone will stand up for their rights and get this into the court system.

  49. sir_eccles says:

    @Bladefist: “a highly intelligent individual who has chosen to work in customs”

    Dude, really?

    On the subject of encrypting, I’m with the camp that thinks it draws suspicion if it is recognized. Just think of all those people locked up in Gitmo “on suspicion”. I would prefer hiding things in plain sight.

  50. Bladefist says:

    was a joke

  51. jamar0303 says:

    By the way, installing Mac OS X on a normal PC is a good way to hide your info. If you install and revert to the Windows bootloader, your intall will be in a state where it will not boot without the install DVD in the drive to load the first HFS+ files. Do your work in Mac, then check the install DVD. When you get to the border, they’ll just see whatever you have on Windows since Windows can’t natively read HFS+ disks.

  52. mac-phisto says:

    what policies are corporations putting into place that guard against their data being accessed by officials that are not privy to the information?

    in a perfect world, the customs inspector is legitimately looking to protect the border. in reality, they are susceptible to bribery & corruption. what are companies doing to ensure that IP data is not stolen & sold to the highest bidder?

  53. Buran says:

    @bohemian: You can’t be held for longer than 48 hours without a charge levied against you.

  54. Buran says:

    @jamar0303: You do realize that that’s illegal and you can get in trouble for doing it?

  55. balthisar says:

    Not even as complicated as all of the that. Log into another account, even a fake, limited one that you’ve set up beforehand. It’s not the computer forensics guys doing this, but just some random customs dude. They’re not that hard to fool.

  56. JGB says:

    Truecrypt is the way to go all right. I especially like the fact that the encrypted devices can carry and run the program, self contained. I carry an 8 gb USB drive that has been set up like this. Not only does it look like there is nothing on it, but, even if you do know how to start the program, it would be very very difficult to break. Guessing my password is out of the question. I randomly selected 20+ letters/numbers/punctuation marks, upper and lower case. Of course, this is probably overkill for the TSA. From what I have seen at the airport, they would not be able to open it if I tattooed the password on my forehead.

    I wonder what “force you to log in” means? Probably involves a tazer and a rectal search. Or both at the same time.

  57. Pylon83 says:

    @Buran:
    While it is against the license agreement for OS X to load it on a non-apple branded computer, and by modifying the program in order to get it to work you are likely violating a number of IP laws, not to mention possibly the DMCA, etc., the likelihood of Apple going after anyone creating a “hackintosh” for their own personal, private use is very, very, very unlikely. So while I agree that it is, in a technical sense, illegal, I would certainly take issue with the “you can get in trouble part”.

  58. DrGirlfriend says:

    I really wish I could remember where I read this, but a TSA big shot was saying, in response to complaints about these kinds of searches, that people coming in and out of the country should expect to be searched this way because, after all, Americans are used to it.

    Yeah, we are used to warrantless searches and being considered suspicious for absolutely no reason.

  59. DrGirlfriend says:

    @LionelEHutz: I agree, and it just makes me crazy that after all history has taught us, we’re not seeing the irony in the fact that our government is turning into so many of the things it fought wars against.

  60. disavow says:

    @Asvetic: Not supposed to happen on domestic flights, but the TSA actually just found some local organizations doing exactly that.

  61. @Buran: Not quite on the up and up about Guantanamo Bay are we?

  62. theblackdog says:

    I’d be suspicious as well.

    Actually, I’d love to see them try to take my laptop if I was traveling with one, simply because it would be a work-issued laptop from the US Government. There would hell to pay from that one.

  63. timbrews says:

    Why don’t folks just start shipping their electronics (PDA, BBerry, laptop, etc.) out via DHL or others to the overseas destination? This is just another veiled attempt to placate the American public by making them feel like our Homeland Security is actually doing something.

  64. Corydon says:

    You know, next time I travel out of the country with a laptop, I think I’ll load it up with 100% legal gay bear porn just to see the reaction of the guy who gets to search my hard drive.

  65. statnut says:

    “But will not say how it picks which electronic devices to search…”

    Thats cause the agents just pick the ones they want for themselves. Bonuses for everyone!

  66. clevershark says:

    I’ve heard a number of stories about this. It’s clear that non-citizens are being especially targeted by the DHS thingies because of the fact that as non-citizens they do not have the rights that US citizens have.

    Since 2004 traveling into the US has become such a pain in the ass I’m willing to pay extra to avoid the US altogether (e.g. going to Asia via Vancouver instead of the usual route via New York or Chicago). Not having to face DHS personnel who are openly hostile to me brightens my vacations considerably.

  67. timsgm1418 says:

    i wish I had not read your post while taking a drink of soda…made me laugh so hard I choked@VeeKaChu:

  68. timsgm1418 says:

    @LionelEHutz: I think Benjamin Franklin said “those that are willing to give up freedom for security deserve neither” I love this quote

  69. parabola101 says:

    Yeah! My luggage was searched 4 times while traveling (w/ layovers) from PA to MI to visit my daughter in ann arbor, mi. As they rifled through my personal items the TSA security held them up and then made comments about the clothes I packed. I am not surprised about laptops, it seems as if we have no rights in the USA. . . ? I travel to Europe all of the time and this kind of crap NEVER happens!!!

  70. timsgm1418 says:

    @timsgm1418: oops I think the quote was actually safety instead of security…either way, it’s a great quote

  71. KJones says:

    Here’s a thought: the fascists are not likely to test every picture, every MP3, or every media file. If you don’t have the space to send it over the internet, don’t trust sending it by wire, or you must carry it with you, try this:

    1) Compress your data into ZIP files with a strong password. Better yet, use a less common packing format such as ZOO or ARJ, or even make one yourself.

    2) Rename the extensions to the another common extension, e.g. JPG, MPG, DAT, or others. Preferably, use extensions that are less likely to be suspected of holding “pirated” material, such as MP3.

    3) Make a list of the encrypted files’ names and email it to yourself. This will help you identify which are the crucial files.

    4) Bury the encrypted files in a directory with files of the same name and similar file sizes. If they fascists test your files, they’ll just look like corrupted files to the snoops and might pass undetected.

    5) Dump in some phony files with the same extension which are full of junk. If the only “corrupt” files are the ones you want to hide, it might look suspicious. If most of them are garbage and only a few are crucial, the snoops might stop snooping on a effort-to-results basis.

  72. ThinkerTDM says:

    At what point does a country become a fascist state? I don’t think you would wake up one day, and -boom- things are different. It’s more like becoming acclimated to water. At first its a little cold on your toes. Then toes are ok, it’s your knees that are cold. Then knees are ok… and before you know it, you are submerged. And it feels good!
    Granted, its a little matter, searching incoming laptops. But what about tomorrow, when another little matter comes up. And then the next day. And then the next. Before you know it, random house searches will be commonplace, and trials aren’t. And it will feel good.

  73. KJones says:

    That should read:

    2) [...] Preferably, avoid extensions suspected of holding “pirated” material….”

    I didn’t re-edit my re-edit.

  74. gamehendge2000 says:

    I had the pleasure of getting the special search treatment coming back from an international business trip. Whole affair took about 45 mins, including poking at my underwear, looking at my handwritten notes on a pad of paper, looking at receipts in my wallet and matching them up with the physical items, and yes, booting up the computer and looking at a few random documents.

    my advice if this happens to anyone else (and I do follow my own advice). This is the time and the place for a smile and yes sir, no sir answers. Pull any of your righteous indignation of how your inalienable rights are being trampled, and you’ll be in line for the rubber glove treatment sans the KY.

  75. Javert says:

    @Buran: 48 hours at the border? What is your source on this? From my understanding, you have really have no rights at the border. Fine, you refuse search, you don’t get to come in to the country. That is sort of how it has always been.

    As for this being a US only thing, nope. I had some DVDs going into Canada which were Simpsons DVDs (legal, bought). The Canadian super cops looked and asked if it was porn. I said no. They asked again, and, whoa, I did not fall for their clever ruse. They then made me boot my laptop and play the DVD. And this was driving across the border, not flying. The customs flying into Canada is far worse than any other country for which I have had to clear customs (Mexico, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Austria).

  76. Javert says:

    @timsgm1418: The quote is “[t]hey that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It is from a book he wrote in 1759. The quote is not his though. It first appeared in 1755. Though he liked the quote and made it central to his book, it is incorrect to credit him. Sorry to be so picky but this really should be corrected. It is like saying ‘octopi’ for plural of octopus when it should be (if memory serves) ‘octopodes’.

  77. disavow says:

    @ThinkerTDM: Early Warning Signs of Fascism by Laurence W. Britt

    Kind of eerie, yes?

  78. jamesdenver says:

    I love the “don’t fly” or “that’s why I never leave a 10 mile radius of my house” answers. Worthless.

    Some of us actually enjoy interational travel – and want to discuss and take a stand about how to continue seeing the world and cultures without our government hindering our basic rights.

    And also invite visitors to our country without making them feel unwelcome by surly customs agents.

  79. Pylon83 says:

    @jamesdenver:
    Agreed. The “This is why I don’t ever do (insert topic of thread here) do get a little old. I assume most of the people who take that stance are the same ones who stocked up on generators, MRE’s, and radiation suits just before Dec. 31, 1999 and probably have some form a manifesto.

  80. SnotFare says:

    @Pylon83:
    Are you serious? It is not fair if it is done to anyone, even foreigners, if it was an American traveling to the UK and this was done to him everyone would be up in arms, treating every foreigner like a criminal is really not going to improve America’s already tarnished image.

  81. bostonmike says:

    Seven important words:

    I do not consent to this search.

    Don’t fight back or threaten or yell or obstruct them — that won’t do you any good.

    [www.cafepress.com]

  82. mikelotus says:

    Even with the dollar be worth less than a rupee now, tourism is way down in the USA. Wonder why? For all your encryption needs I recommend Drivecrypt (www.securstar.com/) for all your needs. Its a German company proving that they did learn something about security after WW II and Enigma.

  83. rhombopteryx says:

    REPORTER: To search your house, police need probable cause to believe you have commited a crime. Not so with customers and border protection searches of computers. A spokeswoman says the agency has, “Broad search authority at the borders to determine admissibility…or look for anything that may be a violation of criminal law.”

    Right… The best legal advice always comes from reporters, or the cops whose searches violate the relvant laws.

    Truth is, the cops have to have some type of suspicion, from reasonable suspicion to probable cause to a full-blown search warrant, depending how invasive the search is. In this type of situation, a federal court in L.A. has already called foul, ruling that border searches of computers require ‘reasonable suspicion’ of criminal activity.

    But she will not say how it picks which electronic devices to search, or what is done with the information inside.

    And because Customs won’t say what its standards are, even after a freedom of information request, it just got sued by the EFF.

  84. Trai_Dep says:

    Yet another example of der Homeland Security substituting innocents’ inconvenience for real security. Any half-decent terror-type would keep his suspect data on a thumb drive or on the web someplace, say in a draft web-email account w/ attachments. Completely invisible to the authorities. Accessible whenever they want. Secure.

    Yet every other person has to strip their shoes off, toss their water bottles then let some $8/hr stooge rifle thru their privates. And wait in line as they do it to everyone else.

    Fire the lot of them, starting from the top. Security Kabuki.

  85. Veeber says:

    @DrGirlfriend: These are two separate instances. The TSA, at the SF airport, was asking people to take all electronic devices out and put them in containers for the xray machine. They’ve decided to stop that, as it wasn’t an official TSA mandate, just something the SF TSA started doing.

    This case is customs searching your actual data.

  86. mennomateo says:

    Your password cannot be obtain even with a warrant, just plead the 5th

  87. Benstein says:

    I think they are going out of control on this right now so they can find 1 guilty person to defend against the inevitable criticism that has just now started.

  88. Corydon says:

    @rhombopteryx: Thanks for the reminder that a donation to the EFF is a great investment.

  89. chrisdag says:

    @gamehendge2000: I agree with you for personal laptops. You’ve probably though never had legal data on your laptop that you *can’t* divulge to third parties. I keep 2 AES-256 encrypted disk images on my macbook — one to store business documents that I need when I wear my “401K/Benefits Administrator” hat for the company. That disk image contains personal employee information including social security numbers and health insurance enrollment data.

    The second encrypted disk image contains work files related to my consulting work – those contain sensitive VPN login credentials, root passwords and all sorts of information that I can’t legally disclose without being sued by my commercial clients or really nailed by my upset government clients.

    This is *big* deal, especially for frequent business travelers. If someone at customs (any nation) was trying to force me to open either of those disk images I’d have to politely refuse and then figure out what to do after being denied entry to the country.

    The end result of this BS is that companies large and small are going to have to figure out ways to strip business laptops whenever they go near borders. Some companies already swap in virgin hard disks and employees are forced to VPN somewhere to get at their work files. I think this is the direction I’m going to have to take my company now as well …

  90. BugMeNot2 says:

    @MIKELOTUS: I would recommend using TrueCrypt or PGP since both are open source. Securstar’s soft is closed source, so you’re trusting them they haven’t weakened encryption or put in their own backdoor. I guess I would just feel more comfortable using opensource stuff that has been looked at by public crypto community and vetted.

    As for divulging password, there is no law stating you have to give it. There is legal precedent that passwords are protected by the 5th amendment:

    [www.news.com]

    This is not the case for the surveillance happy quasi police state UK where you can get up to 5 years in jail for not giving your key. If I recall correctly the FBI was trying to get a law similar to RIPA enacted in the US.

    [arstechnica.com]

  91. shufflemoomin says:

    I’d love to know how many criminals or terrorists they’ve actually caught by doing this. Now that the procedure is getting coverage, it’ll only encourage people to hide anything incriminating. Pointless and a waste of time and money. Another good reason not to ever visit the US again. I’ve been twice, was treated like a criminal at passport control with fingerprinting and photographs. Now, I think I’ll visit somewhere else. Canada is nice at this time of year.

  92. D3R3K says:

    It will be a matter of time when other countries do this to US citizens, as a form of payback.

  93. forgottenpassword says:

    What is really messed up is that police depts & gov. agencies will often hold on to your siezed computer/laptop forever because their computer division is backed up (that’s the excuse they use anyway). Odds are it gets sold at auction when you give up trying to get it back.

    So practical advice is… if your computer/laptop gets siezed…. never expect to see it again.

  94. forgottenpassword says:

    Just want to add…. that standing up for your rights often times means you will get punished for it one way or another. Like being purposely delayed by authorities so that you miss your flight, or getting an extra ticket for not allowing the police from searching your car because they asked.

  95. jamar0303 says:

    @Buran: Someone’s going to be worried enough about their data to do it.

  96. FLConsumer says:

    To all of those people who keep talking about constitutional rights — You obviously don’t get it! These agencies don’t care what your rights are. If those who make the rules and laws aren’t willing to follow them, the rules and laws become void. Sure, you can scream your head off about your 5th amendment rights all you want, as the border agents haul you off to the hold cell.

  97. Buran says:

    @Pylon83: I wouldn’t put it past these people who hate individual constitutional rights so much that they’ll violate them on a whim and also commit theft.

  98. mikelotus says:

    The DHS and TSA hate our freedoms! They hate our way of life!