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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  1. Schultz


    Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML

  2. Ed
    Thumb Down

    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...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    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

  4. Anonymous Coward

    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.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    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?


  6. Pete 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.

  7. Anteaus

    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.

  8. Jonathan McColl

    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)

  9. Chris Simmons

    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.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Leave one image


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

  11. Anonymous Coward

    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.

  12. Rich

    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.

  13. Jon Tocker

    What a surprise!

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


    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.

  14. Eugene Goodrich

    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.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    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.

  16. Greg Fawcett

    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.

  17. Andre

    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.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  19. Charles Manning

    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).

  20. John Navas

    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.

  21. Bill Cumming

    @ 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.

  22. greg

    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...

  23. tony trolle


    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

  24. Anonymous Coward

    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.

  25. Edward Miles

    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.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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)

  27. Silo Spen
    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.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  30. Joe
    Thumb Down

    Re: Stasi comment

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

  31. Steve Roper

    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?

  32. yeah, right.

    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.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    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.

  34. Colin

    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.

  35. Daniel Silver badge
    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.

  36. Justin

    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.

  37. fred
    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.

  38. James

    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?

  39. Mark
    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?

  40. Anonymous Coward

    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...

  41. Unlimited
    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.

  42. Michael

    @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$$"

  43. 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.

  44. John Sturdy

    @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).

  45. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    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?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    @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!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  49. Richard Hebert
    Black Helicopters

    Leave it at home ? LOL

    If you travel with an empty laptop and just download the data once you're in the US you're still screwed .. they check all the data going across the internet and feed all that to the NSA .. any way you look at it . they have your data.

  50. dervheid

    One of the fathers...

    of the USA is attributed this quote:

    "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

    Benjamin Franklin.

    How right he was. (not just applicable to the USA BTW)

  51. michael

    it is not the searching

    but the copying and the passing on to there "frineds" that is worring with paper and other searches they could not do that

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ daniel

    "And you really think that won't earn you a free Cuban vacation?"

    Fantastic, Cuba is a great place, went there last year, full of friendly people, even the local police were friendlyand even posed for pictures in front of goverment buildings on Mayday (I'd be shot in the US of Arses for that!). Just a little ironic, as they remove restrictions the US impose them.

    The border guards we friendly, polite and helpful, not like the brain dead moron I had the misfortune to "grunt" at me at LAX ( I think he was trying to speak English, but not sure).

    Viva la revolution!

  53. Aleksandr Gekht

    Deny entry...

    According to the "rules", CBP can deny entry to persons refusing to divulge their passwords. I have two concerns here. First, the password is stored in my head, not on my laptop, therefore it is subject to the fifht amendment. I have the right to not self-incriminate myself. I myself am a US citizen living and working in UK and frequently travelling to the USA both for business and pleasure. I do carry my company-issued laptop with me, which contains a large amount of confidential information. Deleting it before travel and downloading-uploading is not a good option, as I loose about 8 hours on the plane, during which I can get A LOT of work done. The question is: how can CBP deny entry into the USA to a USA citizen? This is again against the law.

  54. censored

    There's a difference...

    ...between searching your notebook, papers and luggage. These do not contain everything you've said and done, things you've thought, ideas you've had, secret affairs, kinky porn you've browsed, every friend and colleague you've got and their full details.

    They don't even need to be on the laptop. Once they've looked at your web history, they know your Google name, Facebook login, the clubs you're a member of, the Calendar you synch to.... etc etc

    There is more information about you in your laptop today than has ever been collected about you by a state in history.

  55. Lol Whibley

    I'm suprised

    that there hasn't been some ..

    'All your drive belond to US '

    puns by now..

  56. Anonymous Coward

    The Loonies have taken over the asylum

    When will politicians learn that this kind of thing is just a complete waste of everyone's time and money, serving no practical purpose. If someone really had something to hide I'm pretty sure the school bully defecto morons who like to wear uniforms are very unlikely to find it as they couldn't find there own arse with both hands and a torch.

    Is anybody really stupid enough to call a file terroristmanual.doc, kiddieporn.jpg, or extremeporn.avi (for UK readers) ?

    No I think they would be a bit more clever using something like encryption and embedding into legitimate files such as ordinary photos or dlls blah blah

    America - please don't be as thick as your President !

    Excuse me now while I just go and read that wonderful Hans Christian Anderson story The Emperors New Clothes to my daughter because it's too much hassle at customs to take her to Disneyland !

  57. Anonymous Coward

    It's perfectly simple....

    ...we do the same thing to all US citizens travelling into our countries and see how they take it. Better still, just don't go to the US - it's not like you're going to miss out on anything!

    (anyhow, I'm off to Cuba on hols tomorrow, so that should see to it that I never get admitted to the US ever again! They gave me enough damn grief over having an Egyptian vacation stamp in my passport)

  58. Anonymous Coward

    US is over

    ... really they are a failing super power currently trying to strong arm their failing status.

    No i dont do business with the US, I dont mind that they dont mind. More importantly when i consult to business i usually advise of suitable european alternatives to whatever US based thing they want.

    Sure its a drop in the ocean, but with so many others out there who will take the place of the US in a business sense, they should be worried more than me.

  59. Frank Bough
    Black Helicopters

    @ Steve Roper

    Your vision is PARTIALLY correct, but they won't use checkpoints. You will be (are being, actually) tracked by a) mobile phone b) credit/debit card use c) car licence plate d) rail ticket/oyster. Of course, your mobile voice and data IO is filtered continually for key words/phrases and may be being stored. Your email and web browsing data is intercepted at ISP level - behavioural patterns as assuredly being generated. They probably have access to your Tesco Club and/or Nectar cards, too. They also have SOME people's DNA on record, but not enough to be truly frightening yet. However, they'll get there if we let them.

    Now each one of these insights into your life can be worked around, but working around ALL of them is going to be plain hard work that only the very paranoid or criminal will attempt it. Of course, the net result is that the very people who they want to monitor will be the hardest to find but hey, you can never have too much information, right?

  60. Solomon Grundy

    @Aleksandr Gekht

    If you are a US citizen they can't deny you entry. But they can keep your computer/device and ream your ass out a bit before they send you on your way.

    If this is the way my govt wants to be that's fine. When I travel I'll just post my portable drive back home.

  61. Brian Milner

    TrueCrypt: (Free open-source disk encryption software)

    I saw a great answer to this problem on another forum:


    from "Joe U"


    1. There is no encrypted data, I just didn't format that partition yet.

    2. There is no encrypted data, that file must be corrupt. What did you do to my computer?

    3. Here's the encrypted data, it's a copy of my tax forms for 2006. There is no hidden partition.

    Pick one.


    Notice in 3) he gives them an encryption password, but conceals the presence of a hidden volume. This gives him "plausible deniability", increasing the chances of getting his data through customs.

  62. Pete

    I like the smart card containing your home directory idea

    Mount it over an empty one (or one with a few basic files in) and who would even realise that was the deal.

    Hand the card to your travelling companion before you get off the plane for additional security, or, if you don't need it on the flight, post it to your hotel or a friendly bod in the USA

    Obviously, you would have a backup.

    I also thought

    Format laptop HD as an encrypted linux file system, with no OS on it, and it only being accessible from a bootable flash drive, which of course you would not have on you. (see above)

    Then play the dumb company drone, "I don't know any passwords, all I know is I plug a dongle in when I get to the office and it works" followed by "no I haven't got it with me, company policy says dongle plus laptop never travel together"

  63. Silentmaster101


    its called a hidden volume.

    if they cant see it they cant open it, plus i would like them to waste the effort of finding said volume, breaking three different 256-bit encryption keys, only to find nothing but family vacation pictures and my resume. really good use of government resources eh?

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Industrial Espionage

    The one thing that very much worries me is that this administration has been VERY pro-Campaign Contri-, er, "Business."

    I work for a non-US company, and I regularly take encrypted drives overseas. This is information that one of our biggest competitors, a US company, would LOVE to see...


    How long before some joker deliberately brings in a USB stick with a brand new trojan, and the luckless TSA gets to be the tester for it?

  65. bertie bassett

    Off to the states next weekend

    Hmm should be to Orlando for the annual Blackberry Beenfest.. So now the packing list based on this advice

    laptop - nope

    Dig Cam - nope

    Ipod - nope. - could be a long flight with all the little dahling excited about seeing mickey...

    BB - well I can't really leave that behind now can I..

    I'll let you know had badly my probing is...

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Silentmaster 101

    I like the Truecrypt idea, except for

    "1. There is no encrypted data, I just didn't format that partition yet."

    a feeble gambit, which is drastically refuted by the reply "Ok, then you won't mind if I format it for you right now".

  67. Edward Miles

    @Tom Welsh:

    To which you should reply: Of course not officer.

    Loosing data is a hazard of having it encrypted. Backups should be stored somewhere. Admittedly in the long run a bit annoying, but better than giving all your data to them.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re Truecrypt

    How about

    4. You've seen it power up, now f*** off, the data on there is NONE of your business.

    Cheeky bastards.

  69. Jesus
    Black Helicopters

    And the hits just keep on coming

    You folks do realize that crap like this is just going to keep coming down the pipe until people begin to stand up and say, "ENOUGH!". We are currently in an election year so there is no better time to make your voice heard.

  70. kain preacher

    US bashers

    Wait wasm't one of your air ports that wants to finger print every one that enters it. Weater you are local are domestic. It seems alot of you are forgetting that your goverment is on the exact same road.

    How is that ID card thing going ? how is that extreem porn law going ??

    Must be a good day no CD's were lost.

  71. VampyreWolf


    there is an easy way to do this. spend a couple hundred bucks and build and ftp box. The question is how much you want to piss em off.

    1. create a folder, within a zip, within a folder, within a zip, within a.... you get the picture... label them all as KP, then toss in the goatse pic as the only file at the end of it.


    2. make a file called "illegal stuff' filled with every auto-exe'ing virus you can dig up, zip it as auto-exec, and step back, knowing that you likely fvcked em for a little bit.

    Toss either one on a flash drive that you're willing to abandon, and go through with a fresh install on your laptop. Just pull your files from the ftp when you get to your spot.

  72. Daniel B.
    Black Helicopters

    @Delete the files? Is that enough?

    You know, that's why there are tools that do "data shredding", which overwrite deleted filespace over and over until the data is no longer readable. I'd do that, then fill up the freespace with infinite copies of goatse, then delete them. Oooh yes...


    Just because nobody has done this yet:

    Captain: What happen??

    Operator: Somebody set us up the scan

    Captain: What you say??

    Operator: We get signal

    Operator: Main screen turn on

    ICE: How are you gentlemen!

    ICE: All your data are belong to US

    ICE: You are on your way to Guantanamo

    ICE: You have no chance to backup make your time


    Fill your laptop with virus, for great justice

  73. Anonymous Coward

    A scenario for you.....

    Border control: "Can i see the information on your laptop"

    Me: "No"


    "You dont have the clearance"

    What are they going to do if,

    A, the data is restricted? or higher clearance?

    B, It's UK eyes only?


  74. Buford


    You guys from countries other than the USA are really naive if you believe that your government is not tracking your every move also. I get a real kick out of people from other countries telling me how bad I have it in the USA. I can own a gun, travel when and where I wish, basically do as I please. You guys haven't a clue. I have traveled all over the world and the USA has by far been the easiest place that I have ever traveled. You have no clue how good I have it because you are not here. If you don't want to travel here, don't, we will not miss you. I don't travel to your countries because I don't like you either. I guess that makes us even.

  75. Michael

    CBP raided by FBI, sued by RIAA. QED.

    "The letter comes 10 days after a US appeals court ruled Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have the right to rummage through electronic devices even if they have no reason to suspect the hardware holds illegal contents. Not only are they free to view the files during passage; they are also permitted to copy the entire contents of a device. There are no stated policies about what can and can't be done with the data."

    Awesome! So if I have legally acquired music on my computer, and the CBP copies all my files, then the FBI needs to raid the CBP and the RIAA needs to sue them for copyright infringment!! If I'm reading this correctly, it states "electronic devices". That would include iPods. Maybe I should become a CBP agent -- it'd bolster my music collection!

    Seriously, though, BIOS password = win.

  76. J

    @ MP3s

    "That'd make for an interesting lawsuit."

    Nah... The cowards only go after dead grandmas and 11 year old girls, they would never take up anything much bigger than that...

    Now, can the gorillas doing the border control understand my Linux machine?

  77. Anonymous Coward

    Couple observations...

    On the comments about denying entry into the country... I ran into an incident of this sort going in Canada. They can not legally deny you entry. However they can hold you indefinitely for questioning and investigation.

    And flag your passport, so if you happen to be a pain to Customs agents on this trip to protest the copying of your laptop, you better be serious because you can end up flagged for the full inspection (often with free prostate exam included) for EVERY time you cross the border after that.

  78. John
    Black Helicopters

    Need to amend the Constitution

    Congress needs to start the Admendment process, to formally put in place a garuantee in the Constitution itself against stuff like this. I suggest "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".

    I like the poison pill on the desktop idea. If they ask what it is, tell them it's a program a friend put there, and you're not sure what it is (make it the truth if you want, a friend can place a random virus on the desktop). If they choose to run it, it's their problem they deleted everything. F* 'em.

    And, if you get held up, I'm sorry, but it is a small price to pay to throw a wrench in the machine.

  79. Fatman

    Your personal data just....

    Simple answer use this thing called Steganography.

    Just hide your important information inside a bitmap.



    Sometimes it is better to hide things in plain sight.

  80. James O'Brien

    @Solomon Grundy

    Was wondering if someone would mention that idea. Why not just mail the laptop to a friend or the hotel addressed to yourself? Chances are the mail goes through Customs a hell of alot easier then we do.

    /Please a sponsor anyone? Anyone?

    I hate this country more and more when i read this drivel

  81. Chris
    Gates Horns

    typical CBP agent

    Really folks. To keep your private data private, just put it somewhere other than the My Documents folder...

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    ""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!"

    I've got a much better idea! Set up a special military "hotel" in Greenland! It's definitely outside the EU (even Europe), and it's much, much colder there then on Channel Islands or any other British souvereign territory! All we have to do is to ask the Danish government about that. And do you think that they'd refuse such a noble act?

  83. Bill Cumming

    Think i better change my splash screen!

    Don't think my boot splash screen, of a bundle of dynamite with the status bar as a timer, will in down well with the trained ape's at us customs...

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cant even recognize my own country

    Wow, is this really what we want for a country? What happened to who we used to be? We need to stop taking this kind of garbage and make ourselves heard like real Americans

  85. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton

    Oh no

    Oh no , my movie camera bag just scored some very large flash memory chips and an ssd with some new stick on labels to match that movie camera with hard drive and auxiliary flash memories in the same bag. Honestly officer is it not amazing what one can buy from any street vendor in Hong Kong for digital movie cameras these days !

    Sadly though for some reason the laptop , appears to have a fresh install of the operating system from the recovery sector with only the factory pre-installed crap and the Windoze registry has been scrubbed cleaned and compacted of all extraneous and usual unwanted entries that build up in time !

  86. Bill Cumming

    you guys are thinking to deeply.......

    To be honest.

    Why go to the bother of wiping a comp or playing about with encryption...

    All you need to do is have a secure file that stores the SSH links to your company Servers..

    Don't pack a laptop.

    Go to the US pick up an EEEPc mini laptop thingies ( the one with the cute bird on the beach in the advertising pics) for a couple of hundred bucks (the price a of a good night out plus tips for the stripper) on the company card... use it to work on the linux OS with SSH while in the US. when you are about to fly home. Fed-Ex the laptop home it's light enough to be cheep...

    So you don't have a laptop when catching your plane :D:D


  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good advice

    "In this posting, the EFF agrees that laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and other gizmos should be cleaned of any sensitive information. Then, after passing through customs, travelers can download the data they need, work on it, transmit it back and then digitally destroy the files before returning."

    Thank god terrorists, fundamentalists and general Evil People[tm] wouldn't think of doing that. This searching laptops for dodgy data is very clever and foolproof!

    Note to anyone else travelling - take a look at MojoPac or MokaFive on a secure USB stick. This will let you keep your work environment and your laptop separate, in the event that the latter is compromised by this apalling behaviour.

    Better still use Snu's Secure Global Desktop which lets you grab your desktop from any java-enabled browser. Then you can leave your laptop at home.

    El Reg also reviewed the IronKey secure USB device. Well worth a look.

    One has to stay a step ahead of these self-important, thick idiots. Just don't tell the terrorists!

  88. Scott

    Time for this honky to move

    The chickens are coming home to roost.

  89. TimM
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Leave it at home ? LOL

    "If you travel with an empty laptop and just download the data once you're in the US you're still screwed .. they check all the data going across the internet and feed all that to the NSA .. any way you look at it . they have your data."

    Worse than that. Just sitting in Blighty using the Internet still can hand your data over to the NSA, and not just by visiting obviously american sites. A lot of UK based sites host servers in the US and those T&Cs you probably didn't read will have said that they do this and effectively screw you when it comes to privacy as UK privacy laws don't apply because of this. So not only is your private information at risk anyway, the servers being hosted in the US means going through NSA or whatever filters too.

    Hence I would welcome an Internet break up where the Americans have their own net to go with their own insular world, and the rest of the world moves on. Maybe we can then do like in Hitchhikers Guide and rid the world of the useless third and dispatch the US into space.

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Might as well give up now

    The terrorists have won. Allahu Akbar!

    Could we have a Mad Mullah icon? In the meantime, Bill'll do.

  91. Andrew Taylor
    Black Helicopters

    Storm in a teacup

    Having just gone through the US border whilst traveling from Toronto to New York (and back) as part of a holiday I can assure you that US Border Patrol are more interested in getting your $6 admission fee than inspecting your laptop / digital camera / mobile phone records. Most of the passengers on my carriage had laptops in use and camera's / mobile phone's in plain sight and not one person was challenged about them. I think that some people have been specifically targeted for various reasons and are making an issue out of this. Personally I found the US Border Patrol to be polite and efficient if humourless but there again so are a lot our Customs & Immigration Officials in the UK.

  92. OffBeatMammal
    Gates Halo

    Windows Live Mesh

    it looks like the answer to this...

    keep your stuff in the cloud, sync to your PC when you are somewhere safe but trash the folder and uninstall the client when you're crossing the border

  93. Anonymous Coward

    @Storm in a teacup

    Is it just me or is the a trend of people posting positive comments that are actually working for the diseased company/gov't...

    Seeing a trend of people lately that have an obvious agenda putting comments in which have a sound argument (hey they only want your xyz, lazy arrogant bums), and then go on to say "no problem".

    Seriously. We got Andrew Orlowski... the "objective" reporter who disables comments since people express their views. Very mature indeed. Most people I know don't bother reading his articles anymore - usually they're badly written, biased to the extreme; and there's no way to correct or interact on the information.

  94. Andrew Taylor


    Sorry to disappoint you but I don't work for US Border Control, the US Govt don't like employing Brits to control their borders, I was just posting my experience of last Sunday. I returned to Canada to finish my holiday yesterday and found the Canadian Border Guards to be friendly and good humoured unlike their US counterparts. Tomorrow I will fly home to the UK so please explain how I am actually working for the diseased company. If you can't stand a true experience without raising bogus accusations, stick to the comics you usually read, maybe next week someone will give you the crayons to go with the comic.

  95. Jeremy

    EULA Violation !

    "Not only are they free to view the files during passage; they are also permitted to copy the entire contents of a device. There are no stated policies about what can and can't be done with the data."

    So... lets say its a Windows notebook, violation of Microsoft's EULA anyone ? Is Microsoft going to demand payment to license these unlicensed copies of Windows ?

    Yes lame I know, I know, but I had to find an angle here somewhere for getting in the obligatory "we love to hate" M$ comment.

    Ok ok, I'll get my coat...

  96. Charles Smith
    Black Helicopters

    About time too...

    It's about time that the Yanks tightened their Border Security. In the 1990's I purchased as fairly large antique clock through three of their airport security checkpoints on to planes. It was never inspected or X-rayed.

    The following year I flew into San Francisco on a tourist visa and left the country 2 weeks later by Amtrak Rail into Canada, but could find no one to collect my green visa card. So far as their computers are concerned I'm still in the USA (in UK really).

    The UK Customs have long had the authority to take mirror copies of the disks of technology held by people entering the country. This is nothing new.

    It used to be, and probably still is, illegal to take encrypted files into France unless you had official permission. Similarly you need an export licence to take encryption software (on you laptop) from the UK to a range of countries.

  97. Dave

    @kain preacher

    I think you'll find that the airport (actually only one terminal there, pick a different airline to avoid it) decided not to use fingerprints because enough fuss was kicked up and the legality of the operation came into question, plus the issue of non-cooperating passengers.

    As for ID cards, most of us are relying on a change in government next time around to avoid them but may review our options if that fails.

  98. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Reciprocity, nice place to visit!

    “I've got a much better idea! Set up a special military "hotel" in Greenland! It's definitely outside the EU (even Europe), and it's much, much colder there then on Channel Islands or any other British souvereign territory! “

    You’ve never been to the Falkland Islands then? I’d recommend the various landmine fields which still haven’t been totally cleared. Will make a change from innocent sheep taking a ride on Claymore Trampolines.

    I’m with a few other posters. Make the requirements reciprocal, including fingerprinting and divulging all kinds of info. I for one would love to see those who funded “Nor-aid” (aka the PIRA) get lifted at Heathrow for funding terrrism.

    On the subject of travelling to the US – I recently thought about going to the Caribbean on vacation. No chance, as even flying over the US continent means I have to divulge reams of personal data. So, Polynesia – but not via LA or that other shining light of freedom, Dubai; where I could get 4 years in the pokey for having a bun with poppy seeds at Heathrow or having the remnants of a Solpadien in my bloodstream.

    I’m learning to fly light aircraft. The US is the home of General Aviation. Given the demise of the dollar, 1 month flight school in Florida or Arizona would be ideal, with a self-fly tour at the end to “see the sights”. Alas, until the neo-fascist phase is over – which usually last 15-20 years (ref.M.Moore in F.911) – I won’t be visiting.

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    @Charles Smith

    If I were you I'd get that little mix-up with the exit visa sorted. Otherwise, if you're even diverted to a US airport on a flight that wasn't intended to even take you anywhere near there, you WILL find yourself touching your toes for a full internal examination and banged up for an indeterminate period.

    They might even set Bill on you.

  100. heystoopid
    Dead Vulture

    PS @ all sorry for second post just an update

    PS @all who think you can use US Mail Express Post , FedEx or UPS parcel post items in and out of the United Soviet States of Amerika please guess again as all in bound parcels are supposedly scanned sniffed(not very relevant given that military flights appear to be routinely ignored by customs for state security reasons though) and checked .

    check this reference link

    Sadly , as one would say the bureaucracy has been ramped up to the nth degree by the DC chimp in his endless self wanking forever war of nothing to create a mountain out of a mole hill in order to bankrupt the country in more ways then one and reduce democracy as we know to be a scam illusion that would make Joseph Stalin smile in his grave !

    A dead bird is appropriate here !

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great Country, shame about the Government

    Been to USA many time, wouldnt go back now as all way too crazy and run by police state type Goverment and liable to get locked up for life for running over a cat accidentally. Crazy, crazy crazy and what a shameful waste of a country.

  102. Elrond Hubbard


    just don't go there!

    i agree wholeheartedly regarding RECIPROCITY.

    i am currently living in brazil. apparently US-citizens are fingerprinted upon arrival and have to pay the same absurd visa fees brazilians have to pay when attempting to enter big mac hell.

    if only the EUtopians had that level of pride!

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