Sunday, February 7, 2016

Travel Advice - How to counter state seizure of your electronics

Travel advice for those who are travelling.


Yeah, great title, I know.  After reading http://www.zdnet.com/article/when-authorities-confiscate-your-electronics-the-fate-of-david-mirandas-computer-and-phone/ , one must wonder what risks even a normal, unassuming peasant must face when crossing a border.  Given the acknowledged issues in the article and the impunity with which state forces will take, modify, bug, copy or otherwise violate your person and property, there is something (actually several somethings) you can do about it. (courtesy EFF)

I strongly urge all liberty minded people to get in touch with their inner CI (counterintelligence) agent and read.. not only read, but comprehend what EFF is conveying in that pdf.  Please, read it before we go on.

Ok, we are back.  One way to minimize your hazard is to consider ANY digital device that you carry with you through an airport to be no longer trustworthy.  Depending upon what you do for a living and purpose of your trip, might it just be better to buy a local phone with a prepaid card?  When you go back home, just destroy it before you get back to the airport.  Aunt Mabel surely should not be bothered by people trying to get her gingerbread recipe.  Chalk it up to the cost of doing business.  Phones are cheap, commodified items anyhow.



If you have to travel with a laptop or something else that has seams and probably screws holding it together, consider applying an odd pattern of glitter-bearing nail polish to all seams and screw heads.  Not likely that they have "Metallic Cucumber #47" with a line of "Harsh Melon #3" ready, nor the ability to dry it.  Examining your devices after arrival for breaks in this home brew security seal is not perfect, but can alert you to any attempted entry.  If you want to make it REALLY crazy, press some dental floss (unwaxed) into the nail polish in an irregular pattern as it dries, THEN cover it with another layer of polish, perhaps in the color of the case itself.  The technique is similar to what was devised to provide unique identifiers for nuclear weapons .  If it is good enough for that purpose, perhaps you will consider it suitable for your own needs.  Don't forget to take high quality digital pictures of your handiwork so that you can compare before/after and provide some reassurance that your gear has not been tampered with.



Another route that may complement the physical security and tamper evidence of the technique above is full disk encryption. Read the link, I can't improve upon its content.  In summary, it is making your data that much harder to casually access.  So, if you are going through security and your devices are not in your control, MAYBE these practices will help you.  If you consider state level adversaries (Russians?  Chinese?) your adversaries, you are out of schlitz and maybe you should not be doing what it is that you do.

In that case, what is a traveler to do?  The answer is simple - travel with NO digital devices.  Buy new on the other end, dispose of all before returning.  You could use Tor to help out on this while using a digital device to help keep you out of casual criminal contact.  Emails?  set up ahead of time some disposable email accounts for yourself and whoever you are traveling with.  After travel, forget them.

The security of your data should be important to you, it is valuable and is a hassle to sort out if it is gone, worse if it is being used by criminals.  Before you travel, check all your pockets and wallet for ANY data that absolutely does not need to be there, this is what is known in the trade as "pocket litter".  If you have to, email yourself a pic of all that you are taking with you so you can check if anything is missing.  Sanitize yourself... no pics of your kids, your spouse, your pets.  When traveling, no crazy or blackmail-able behaviors.

In summary, there are a number of things that you can do to enhance your security and make your data a harder target than it otherwise would be.  The most important thing(s) you can do are to understand that there is a threat out there, and that even if you are not interested in it, it probably is interested in YOU.  Stay safe and prevent hassle/heartache... take care of your data in a smart way and don't get rolled.

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1 comment:

AC said...

Carrying an USB memory stick loaded with the most destructive malware available would be naughty. Don't even consider it.