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back to article Your personal data just got permanently cached at the US border

Now that US customs agents have unfettered access to laptops and other electronic devices at borders, a coalition of travel groups, civil liberties advocates and technologists is calling on Congress to rein in the Department of Homeland Security's search and seizure practices. They're also providing practical advice on how to …

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Waylaying

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Ed
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Were All Screwed

We need to vote everyone out of office.. I don't care who they are.. This is a bunch of crap and we are just sitting around doing nothing about it...

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Coat

Leave One Image

I would suggest leaving one image on, that of a single or group moon. I know Customs officers are not known for their sense of humour so this risks, at best, non-entry or an body cavity search

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Pirate

If you can't stand the heat, don't enter kitchen

Well, anybody travelling to the USA should know that they are getting much worse than the former STASI of the 'German Democratic Replubic' .

I guess they hired all the jobless agents and aquired their paranoia.

I surely will never ( again ) will visit that country.

G.

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Black Helicopters

If you've got the cojones

If you've got the balls, and don't mind your stopover being a little extended, why not just leave your pc behind and take a usb memory stick with a (say) 4 Gb file containing nothing but randomly generated data and make it "look" like a container file for encrypted data. Then you can honestly insist that it is exactly what it is. If they don't believe you, perhaps you can also store on the same memory stick the C/VB/Perl/whatever code you used to generate it?

Even better- get the random data and XOR it before storage. Then, it *is* encrypted!

It might be good for a giggle and to prove a point?

Cheers

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Silver badge

external drives?

While all the fuss is focussed on laptops, how about all the extras that go with them?

Is the average, minimum wage, security guard up to identifying and scanning external drives (that may well be in your pocket, rather than the lappy's case)? How abot the CF/SD card in your camera - now available in 32GB versions for the seriously paranoid. What about fingernail sized micro-SD cards. Would your average peaked-cap piggie even be able to spot one, since they don't even trigger the metal detectors.

I suppose it all adds to the security theatre - although only the seriously stupid would ever get caught by these superficial and ineffective checks.

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Who watches the watchers?

Yeah, my thought processes go something like:

Q:In 9/11, Who won?

A: The terrorists. They have achieved their aim in creating a totalitarian society, in which the people live in fear of organised bullying and persecution from their own government, far more than they fear any comparatively small-scale terrorist outfit.

Q: Who were the terrorists?

A: I'm not sure. Maybe I believe the official line. Maybe I don't. But, the thought does cross my mind that that they might just have been in some way connected with, or even the same people who are now the totalitarians.

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Boffin

War on War on Terror

As usual, it's the ordinary people who suffer, not the blackhats. This is all good training for 21st-Century computerate wicked terrorists who will enter the country with clean smiling laptops, download their plots and plans from the internet and hatch them while safe inside the borders. Post-hatch, these guys can upload the new data they've thought up (all the spreadsheets and Word files and stuff) and wipe the computers again before flying out to one of their hotbeds. Of course, if I were a terrorist, I might even come into the country with no computer whatever and buy one there. Along with a few new PAYG mobiles and a weapon or two, but what do I know?

(I'd like to stress that that isn't my real name)

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Flame

This reminds me...

...of the John Carpenter film "They Live".

When I first watched that film, soon after release it was, to me, a standard sci-fi flick. After I have now seen it so many more times (mostly for the great fist-fight between Roddy Piper and Keith David) I realise that JC had such a futurist vision that he knew what would be happening to both sides of the pond within a few years of the film being released.

(on an aside is it Hollywood making our future, or do they just "reflect" it?)

Apart from the fight scene, the most memorable moment for me was the invasion of the transients camp by bulldozers and police - a scene I never believed I would ever witness IRL; how wrong I was.

I don't really want to restart the tired terrorism/security issue, but it has now overtaken the senses and ethics of our politicians and dropped us, the "normal" citizenry into a state where our security is measured by a lack of, nay a rape of our privacy. For the sake of State and Democracy we now live under a banner that reads "Stasi", "Stalinism" and "Fascism". Our masters bleat on and on about security yet we, as the "Democratic West" are probably responsible for more deaths than any other political system; we are part of the only "free" system that has ever used nuclear weapons; we are, quite frankly, shit.

Sorry, no more. I'm tired and so disenfranchised by my government, so bored by trying to say the same thing time-after-time.

DIAF Bush and your international and domestic cronies; DIAF.

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Joke

Leave one image

Goatse.jpg

If they want to be up in peoples asses about data, let them get a good look.

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Alert

Deny entry? I don't think so!

"CBP agents are free to deny entry to travelers who refuse to divulge their passwords." Really? Last I heard they can't deny entry to *ANY* US citizen. They can seize the laptop, though. I hope Congress does lay out some limits and, dare I say it?, rules for them to follow.

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Flame

No reason

"There is no reason to store five years worth of email on a portable machine"

Yes there is. My laptop is my main machine and I use Google Desktop to locate historic emails. All other solutions to this suck.

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What a surprise!

The US Constitution gets ignored by Government Agencies and the Appeals Court says it's OK. What a shocker.

</sarcasm>

I've got a number of good friends in the States I'd love to visit and there are some great places in the USA that I'd love to see as part of a motorcycling tour of the World but the more I read about their border controls and the breaches of basic human rights exercised by US-Gov, the less inclined I feel to visit the place.

In fact, I'd rather visit Somalia, where at least I know they're not pretending to be anything better than a war zone.

Citizens of the USA: if you're not going to dispose of your goverment, at least do the decent thing and cremate your Constitution so it can finally rest in peace.

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Delete the files? Is that enough?

If the border patrol is allowed to copy all data on the hard drives, there's nothing to stop them copying data that's no longer files, i.e. the data left around after a file has been deleted.

Seem to me a niche for a new "Google Laptop" with no permanent storage of any kind has just come about.

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Coat

This is why...

... I have a special "clean" hard drive I put in my laptop before travelling to the USA. I carry no information other than that strictly necessary for the trip and have a special set of VPN crypto certs just for the trip that one phone call gets them revoked if the machine gets "scanned."

If I have to let the machine be tampered with then I consider the drive to be untrustworthy and it gets physically destroyed when I get home.

Mine's the coat with "Everyone thinks I'm paranoid" on the back.

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Alert

Leave 1 MP3 and set the RIAA on them

I'd leave one legally acquired mp3 on my PC, and then inform the RIAA that the border protection goons were flagrantly flouting copyright laws. That'd make for an interesting lawsuit.

Demanding your data before letting you pass is almost exactly the same as the old highway robbers, except the US government is doing it. I already shun the US when travelling, but this puts me off even more.

This could be a great opportunity for Canadian and Mexican airports - a good ad campaign should see their share of the transit market soar.

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Unhappy

The terrorists have won

Americans have allowed the terrorists to successfully create terror, and are now willing to give up any and all rights and freedoms.

The US government now does what it wants, and in the name of safety, the citizens allow it all to happen.

What a messed up country.

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Anonymous Coward

What about...

What about the mp3s of doubtful origin on that iPod you're carrying? The odd episode of BSG on your laptop that you t0rrented cos you live outside the States and don't wanna wait to see the show?

CBP don't necessarily have to comment on operational details of such searches but they should be restricted as to whom they can pass evidence that they collect.

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Nothing new

They've been going through your bags forever, looking for illegal objects and trying to slip an exta bottle of duty free in.

Why should your e-baggage be treated any differently?

Of course permanent storage of your data is a myth. They just don't have enough raw storage (nor, if the Whitehouse is anything to go by, the experience to execute the job properly).

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Alert

The arrogance of El Reg

"There is no reason to store five years worth of email on a portable machine."

Nonsense. Just because El Reg can't think of a reason doesn't mean there aren't good reasons. Some of us, me included, find access to substantial email history on a portable machine to be quite valuable if not essential, for reasons both professional and personal, and far more secure than storing it on a machine connected to the Internet.

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Coat

@ Anonymous Coward above /|\

They ARE restricted to who the give the info too.

They are restricted to two bodies.

1) Government agencies (any of them)

&

2) Corporate entities.

See nice and restricted.....

...mine is the one with the hidden Micro-SD sewn into the lining.

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Reverse them the favor

Didn't I remember a story about Brazil now fingerprinting only US citizen that want to enter their borders ?

If, let's dream, some countries would mandate any US citizen entering their borders to have all their digital devices be copied, what would happen ?

Ok, I shouldn't dream...

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only!

Only five years shoot before I lost it I had lots stuff dating back to '88, including floppy disk images of aol 3. In fact I have directories called 'My Stuff' and 'Stuff' on most of my hard drives with stuff dating back years

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Alien

THIS is what to do...

1) Create a folder with an interesting name.

2) Put a trivial password on it to prevent accidents.

3) Load it up with every bit of malware and virus-laden crap you can find.

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I can't imagine...

...That this would pose too hard a problem for even a person with average tech skill to get around. Given the computer skills of most customs agents, I'd imagine even cursory obfuscation methods to be sufficient. As for what someone tech-savvy could cook-up, they haven't really got a huge amount of hope of catching anything with this. Coupled with the fact (pointed out above) that you could just use the internet, and you'll get to the same point as usual.The only person you'll hurt is Joe Public, whilst the criminals get around the law with impunity.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

I have to say I kind of agree with the above post "If you can't stand the heat, don't enter kitchen". There's no amount of money you could pay me to make me go to the USA. I wouldn't do it.

This data-searching issue is only one facet of it: Under their laws, they'd probably be within their rights to send me to guantanamo for thoughtcrime or something (not endorsing violence or terrorism or something, it's just that I happen to think, for example, that the "insurgents" in Iraq are people who are (legitimately) fighting a regieme who has illiegally invaded and occupied their country) .

So I just wouldn't go tp the USA, under any circumstances (short of a revolution and/or reinstatement of that 'freedom' thing they rave on about)

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Black Helicopters

Well, I have a solution

EEEPC + /home on an SD card.

= win.

Take it out of the drive, put it in your wallet, suddenly your personal information vanishes. They can look through the laptop as much as they want, the logs are all stored to RAM and are gone. All that's left is linux sans home.

Telling you guys, epic win.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Greg

You do have a point, though. Such arrangements MUST be reciprocated, and that includes the data searching and copying - I can't see why only the US can publicly engage in corporate espionage.

And we need, of course, full and excruciating details of all US passengers before they even set foot on the plane. Name, income, body measures (metric, please), picture, fingerprints, retinal scans, nostril, ear and arse diameters and questionable issues like bad personal hygiene and a habit to stick things up the rear end (for which the EU will then mandate a cavity search). Oh, and to ensure we are indeed talking about *real* equal treatment we will randomly flag up a good 10% of those travelling as resembling someone who may have a 3rd cousin removed on his ex wives side who had a beard and thus likely to be a terrorist, and ban them without a real decent way to get off that list.

Maybe we'll lock up 1 per 1000 in some sort of prison outside EU jurisdiction like Brixton (oh, sorry, it only *looks* like that) and keep them there for 5 years without any access to legal council. Or let them stay with Ken Livingstone, not only will that be worse than waterboarding but he also likes inviting drooling maniacs as friends.

And before I forget, we'd like to see their credit card statements for the last 5 years - printed

Don't like it? Fine, no entry to the EU. Have a nice flight home. Oh, and give those guys in Washington our regards. Remember, YOU voted for them, and didn't ask questions when the voting machines turned out to be of less than sterling quality.

And you didn't really object against Iraq and everything associated that has been done in your name either, but (bizarre as it may sound), that's forgiveable. Neither did anyone in the UK, and we don't have a constitution. Constipation maybe, but that's a path I don't want to follow if you pardon the pun.

I avoid the US like the proverbial plague, and like I avoid Windows if I can help it.

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Anonymous Coward

let them

I do work with the trans community, so on my laptop I have pics of SRS being done. I guarantee the agent will turn away after the first pic. Oh wait I better not got to the UK. that might be considered extreme porn.

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Joe
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Re: Stasi comment

Interestingly enough, before his death, Stasi number 2 Markus Wolf was linked to the US government...

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/december2004/061204wolfhired.htm

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Coat

To all those refusing to travel to the US

This is exactly what the New World Order (or whatever you want to call the police state we all live in) wants. In Communist Russia, travel was restricted to those who had government business elsewhere, and a permit was required. A similar system was in place in George Orwell's 1984 - remember the "ex-London permits" Winston and Julia needed to get to meet in the country?

As more and more people succumb to the paranoia, and travel less, the governments will be able to introduce ever-increasing restrictions on who CAN travel. In fact, I predict that in less than 10 years, we will begin to see police checkpoints allowing searches for travel between suburbs in our cities - ostensibly to "reduce crime" of course. Think about it: if you need to present your biometric ID at a checkpoint, state why you wish to travel to this suburb, and who you are meeting there, then the police have a complete list of all your friends and contacts and when you visit them - even ones not stored on your laptop or phone. They can build a complete psych profile of your life based on where you go and who you hang around with. How useful.

Of course, this will all come to pass and nobody will do anything about it. Ah, thank (char *)Diety I don't have kids who will have to live in this hell we've created! Please excuse me now while I have another ciggy to promote my early death and escape from this shithole... I hope it's the stroke or heart attack that gets me first. Lung cancer is such a debilitating way to go.

Coat? What do I need a coat for?

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Bronze badge

no wonder

It's no wonder that I avoid the USA at all costs these days. I'd rather fly an extra 12 to 20 hours than have to make ANY stops in the US. Or even fly over their airspace.

My business is diversified and does not depend in any way on the Americans. Damn good thing too.

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All this...

Makes me sad that I live here. Makes me sad that Friends and family of mine have fought in wars for the US. 232 year old piece of toilet paper for sale. Rapidly decreasing in value.

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Happy

Poison Pill

I love the idea of a poison pill

Hit the morons with as many varied malware variants as you can find.

A nice honey trap name bound to grab the idiots attention and once they try to extract the file have it execute the malware.

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Dead Vulture

Re: honey traps, malware, viruses etc

And you really think that won't earn you a free Cuban vacation? Much as I like the idea of taking these guys for a ride, that's probably not one of the better ways of doing it. Same goes for a file full of random crap - the way it's going, they'd be within their rights to detain you until you decrypted it, a tad difficult if it's just random.

A Google laptop with 32GB MicroSD is an excellent idea, but I believe the new bodyscan machines can be programmed with outlines of potentially suspicious objects - and they have a (theoretical) scanning resolution of <0.5cm. In other words they're potentially capable already of picking up that MicroSD sewn into your shirt cuff. Which might give you a few questions to answer about why it was there and not in plain view.

Welcome to Detention Camp USA, your exit visa has just been permanently revoked.

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Coat

No "You've got nothing to hide if you're innocent"?

Well this comes as no surprise at all. What is a surprise is that no nincompoop has piped up with the old "You've got nothing to hide if you're innocent" routine?

Could it be that even the thickest amongst us have finally seen some small degree of brain activity on this whole "bogey man" power grab?

What am I saying.... I'll be needing that coat after all.

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Paris Hilton

14 years.

I only have a laptop and it has all my emails and files on it. Fives years my arse. It goes back to 1994! Thats fourteen years for those without mental arithmetic.

Paris, because I hope that she won't be shy about showing her laptop.

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No surprise

This, IMHO, is no different from what's been going on for years. Customs have always had the power to go throught your suitcase, any notebooks (the paper kind), books etc you are carrying. They have looked at videos you carry (especially if they suspect they are porn videos), CDs etc. They can emplty your washbag looking for drugs etc.

Customs have always had pretty well unlimited powers - more than the police.

Bottom line - for a very long time if you enter a country (pretty well any country) you can be subject to any kind of searching including a full strip invasive body search so why does anyone think a laptop is somehow exempt?

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Black Helicopters

Re: To all those refusing to travel to the US

Steve, the only other option is to go to the US and put up with Gitmo or whatever for refusing to allow them access to the machine. And the upside? Your government may change.

If you in the US can't be bothered using the three boxes available why should I put my rectal security at risk to change your government?

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Joke

Offer a personal service

If they do scan your hard drive for dodgy stuff then perhaps they could also scan for viruses and other malware and when/if they give you your hard drive back a report saying what you're infected with?!

Of course they could have just put the stuff on there themselves to track you as you move through the US...

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Black Helicopters

Don't worry, the depression is on its way

People who are comfortable and have something to lose, don't rebel. Seems like everyone's about to become a whole lot less comfortable.

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Joke

@Chris Simmons

US customs ..........."And what is the purpose of your visit to the US?"

Chris " ..................." I am here to chew bubblegum and kick a$$"

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Ru
Dead Vulture

Well, I'm glad I won't be visiting the States this year

Looked like I was going to be joining my other half, who would be working in California for a bit. Happily the plan has changed, and we will be travelling to Canada instead. I'm quite relieved about that.

If it weren't for the fact that I am a British citizen, I probably wouldn't be in the UK either. What a sorry state of affairs.

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Coat

@Steve Roper -- UK is getting there

The UK already has ANPR "on all major roads", and the Oyster card in London --- not yet stopping you travelling, but they'll know where you've been (incompetence of authorities and contractors permitting).

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Paris Hilton

Border con trolls.

I think the Mexicans and the Columbians are showing the country the best way its citizens aught to behave at their own borders.

Fly Canadian and Mexican airlines take a trip down country roads. It should provide a boost for less invasive companies.

Then Pan Am will get their pet governors, senators and congressmen to make changes. Be nice to see them subsisting on rendition flights. Make it easier to follow them too.

Now that Boris Johnson may be running London, we have the makings of our own chimp. I wonder if recent events will have pushed the sock puppets further up the monkey's paw.

Oh GOOD GRIEF! Tory B Liar has just come out of the wood-work. What's he doing with Condoleeza Rice?

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Anonymous Coward

American id'ot...

Why do people let their government do this? You americans are slaves of your government, bowing to their needs and neglecting yours.

I reckon if people are going to the states, maybe have either a dual boot (which defaults to say a non-personal version) and that doesn't prompt for which OS install unless you hold down a hot key, the border staff wouldn't know. I'd find it amusing if people did indeed then put that installation full of viruses, malware, trojans and the likes. But yeah internet storage solutions look more attractive than ever with these kind of situations.

I refuse to go to the states till they clean up their act, i don't care to be wrongly imprisoned or have my privacy breached or other such things. The authorities have become a law unto themselves, made unaccountable for their actions. But here's hoping that their actions will one day meet consequences.

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Joke

@AC (@Greg)

"Maybe we'll lock up 1 per 1000 in some sort of prison outside EU jurisdiction like Brixton (oh, sorry, it only *looks* like that) and keep them there for 5 years without any access to legal council."

Finally, you have determined a practical use for the Channel Islands!

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Anonymous Coward

That they "can" is neither here no there....

that they "do" is the point. Amazing draconian powers are available should "the authorities" wish to use them in the USA or the UK/EU.

We, the people, have let our Civil Servants, Consultants and pressure groups create an environment were the more cretinous politicians hold power and pass repressive legislation.

By all means, don't visit the US - there are many more who will take your place - and they probably wouldn't want you in their society anyway if they have permitted their officials such powers.

People are, generally, NOT stupid but they are susceptible to BS and do have blind spots. We, the proles, have stopped the ruling classes from pillaging us in the past. It's just a little more difficult this time but I refuse to accept that it cant be done and I will have to tolerate the succession and build up of petty tyrannies.

While we have a free press, just keep exposing them.

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