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Examining the Search and Seizure of Electronics at Airports 699

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

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  • by OldBaldGuy ( 734575 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:06AM (#22369258)
    If you RTFA, the examples appear to be cases of traveling while being Muslim, Middle Eastern or Asian. Any examples of Nordic blondes or Irish Redheads getting the same treatment?
  • Decoy Data (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:14AM (#22369306) Homepage Journal
    Mobile devices have very large storage, which can be compressed to varying degrees at will, better than 50% averaged across all data types. It wouldn't be very hard to make a filesystem (or other storage type) for any of them that stores an equal amount of fake data, with a fake password, with everything compressed in the same space as an uncompressed set of real data. Such a filesystem could look just like a real filesystem in every way, including total size, but hide the real data behind fake data and fake password. If it's all encrypted, it would be very hard to tell the difference, especially in an airport screening line.

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

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

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

    Sounds like they're already using sophisticated decoys at DHS: fake security to hide the dangerous absence of any real security.
  • by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) * on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:23AM (#22369370)
    I took a flight once from Dulles to Dublin. They told me my laptop tested positive for nitro glycerin. I said "so?" They said "well nitro glycerin is in a lot of hand lotions" "Then I used hand lotion." The TSA is really hit or miss. I had to take off my flip flop sandals at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans. "You call these shoes?" "They're footwear" And they were patting down a disabled WWII vet in a wheelchair. I told the fresh out of high school kid that he should be embarrassed. That old guy obviously hates America. You're really at their mercy though.
  • by PetriBORG ( 518266 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:30AM (#22369410) Homepage

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

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

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

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

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:32AM (#22369428)
    Each component of the system, that is supposed to be separate, is in bed with those it is supposed to be a check against. This wouldn't surprise anyone who has paid attention to the way that police officers are treated by judges and prosecutors, especially in "liberal areas" for abusing their authority. In places like Northern Virginia, one of the bluest parts of the country, the prosecutors won't touch a cop who shoots and kills someone in a criminal way while on duty. The very argument for giving them their extra powers over the public is that they're professionals with how they use it, and yet they're more likely to be treated like a well-meaning retarded child with a handgun rather than a professional for whom human error should almost invariably be regarded at first blush as criminal negligence.

    The prosecutors will rarely try them, the judges will rarely sanction prosecutors who do things like hound a guy they know is innocent, etc. Why? Because in general, the people in law enforcement, the DA's office and the judiciary are bad apples, with a few good ones mixed in. This applies to federal agencies as well.
  • by bazorg ( 911295 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:38AM (#22369462) Homepage
    interesting quote from TFA: Your kid can be arrested because they can't prove the songs they downloaded to their iPod were legally downloaded. Oh goody, when I immigrated to the UK I brought the MP3s but left the CDs behind. Got to remember leaving all music behind if travelling to the USA.

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

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:53AM (#22369534)
    Carry a USB thumbdrive containing your bootable operating system and toolset and another USB thumbdrive containing all your source code, data, documentation, etc. Also, carry a USB thumbdrive containing useless content which you are willing to surrender to the fascist overlords. Keep the real thumbdrives in a pcoet inside your jacket maybe disguised as a pack of gum.

    When I traveled on military projects I used to line "You do not have the necessary security clearance. But you can telephone General X if you really insist." I was able to glide through security screening without a problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:55AM (#22369550)
    Depends what the definition of "freedom" (nee is) is.

    Yes and Yes to your questions.

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

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

    Yes, now we're just another banana republic, just look at the power of a Home Owners Association.
  • by Vlad_the_Inhaler ( 32958 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @11:01AM (#22369598) Homepage
    Two of us flew out of Denver a couple of years ago during the ski season. My skis tested positive for explosives - normal if it has snowed recently and they have been triggering avalanches - and my friend's ski boots tested positive.

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

    This theft of laptops at airports is in a different class though, those guys have been given too much power.
  • by Dielectric ( 266217 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @11:01AM (#22369600)
    In the article, it says that Radius went to an encrypted network to access company data. Given the recent news of stolen laptops, and the ensuing uproar over the data contained on them, it seems to me that everyone should take this approach. There are very few places that I go in the course of business that don't have some kind of network access. Even the hot dog stand down the street has free wifi, for crying out loud! Of course, you need an access scheme sufficient to keep thieves and DHS agents out of your database, but that's a solved problem with revocable certs, etc.

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

    It sucks that we have to protect ourselves from unreasonable search and seizure by our government, but we'll just have to deal with it for now. Not to get off on a rant here, but I think the Second Amendment should be interpreted to include strong encryption. The writers of the Constitution put that in there as a safeguard against jackbooted government thugs. In today's world, I see no political difference between a Kentucky Long Rifle and AES-128.
  • by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) * on Sunday February 10, 2008 @11:19AM (#22369770)
    I never argued that, I just went along with the path that posed the least resistance. I say "hey, there's no nitro in hand lotion" I'm on a one-way flight to Cuba.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @11:28AM (#22369838)
    And they were patting down a disabled WWII vet in a wheelchair.

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

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

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

  • by dognts ( 1236660 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @11:43AM (#22369970)
    Isn't it great how Americans sit back and let the government do the work for the bad guys of this world. What do the "worlds baddest guys" hate the most about America? Out Constitution. What do they do to erode it. Nothing, except get our own government to do it for them. Then our government instructs us to belive we are safer from all these bad guys and if we don't go with the program they will give us someplace to stay with tree hots and a cot to learn our place. I guess we have to move to a foriegn country and be treated this way in order to get some goodie two shoe organization to notice and put pressure on the the government to stop treating thier people this way cuz its wrong. There isn't any common sense in this world anymore. Boy I wish thier were still people out there with the integrity of Washington, Reveere, Franklin, oh well back to Star Trek.
  • Re:not the answer (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2008 @12:35PM (#22370352)
    Handing over classified material to someone without a verifiable need-to-know is illegal. Do not do that. If you are forced to do that, you need to contact your facility security officer, or DSS, or at least the FBI, ASAP, to report the crime, so it can be pushed to appropriate handling as soon as possible.
  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @12:36PM (#22370364) Homepage Journal

    For what it is worth, you see examples of both being hit in this thread-- the example of the disabled elderly vet above being one.
    Tokenism refers to a policy or practice of limited inclusion of members of a minority group, usually creating a false appearance of inclusive practices, intentional or not. Typical examples in real life and fiction include purposely including a member of a minority race (such as a black character in a mainly white cast, or vice versa) into a group. Classically, token characters have some reduced capacity compared to the other characters, and may have bland or inoffensive personalities so as to not be accused of stereotyping negative traits. Instead, their difference may be overemphasized or made "exotic" and glamorous.

    "We're not doing racial profiling! Look, we're searching a disabled veteran, out of the dozens of brown people we searched today! See?"
  • what is to stop (Score:2, Interesting)

    by doginthewoods ( 668559 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:03PM (#22370586)
    some one with, say a mac laptop, from putting a malicious PC virus on their laptop, & letting the screeners copy that to their databanks?
  • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:10PM (#22370652)
    Here it's almost the opposite, if a police officer makes a mistake (either on, or off duty) they prosecute more fully than any criminal, just to avoid the appearance of corruption.

    There was a case here a few years ago of a police officer who was attacked by a prisoner in a cell, he shot and killed the prisoner, the cop claimed self defence (that the criminal had grabbed for his gun and was shot in the struggle over the weapon). The case went to trial 3 times before the cop was finally convicted (first 2 cases resulted in hung juries) I can't think of any criminal that would have been tried 3 times to get the conviction, the case would have been dropped after the second trial for sure, but there was too much pressure to make it look like they were doing right, even if it meant going farther than they would ever normally do.

    This cop's life is now ruined over a decision that he had less than a second to make, that had potential life and death consequences for both him and the prisoner, and was analysed for several years afterwards.

    But then again... I don't live in the USA...
  • Re:not the answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bug ( 8519 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#22370656)
    Unfortunately, my employer has made it clear that they want their employees to cooperate fully with these searches, and afterwards tell corporate security. Realistically, it's the only reasonable thing for the company to expect. For one, no company wants to be labeled as "supporting the terrists!" Heck, it could even hurt their ability to win government contracts. For another, TSA is unlikely to back down just because of some corporate security policy. The employee would find themselves unable to board their flight at best (and thus unable to complete whatever task the company assigned to them), and arrested and possibly charged with some absurd federal crime at worst. The business travelers have the most to lose if they refuse to comply.

    One poster suggested that government contractors refuse to cooperate, and call their corporate security officer and/or DSS. That's an interesting idea, but someone undergoing a TSA or Customs search won't have any opportunity to contact their security office during the search. They're not going to let you make a cellphone call. You either consent to the search, or you don't. If you don't consent, they might take it anyway, and I'll bet money you wind up in handcuffs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:24PM (#22370764)

    Your suggestions are most welcome.
    start killing men in suits. i'm serious. the fact of the matter is, there are more actual living-breathing human beings then there are government goons.. no matter what country you are in, no matter what a bloated out-of-control military spending budget can buy, you are still a member of a majority.

    remember vietnam? the lesson learned about never being able to win against a determined local populace in their own backyard? well the western governments have apparently missed that lesson, and the US in particular has spread their resources so thin that not only are they assured to lose both the war in iraq and afghanistan, but they are incapable of even protecting their own borders in the event of an invasion.. well my friend, if you happen to live within those borders, and if you happen to be determined to keep your freedom and dedicated to the ideals that our forefathers put forth in the declaration of independence, constitution, and bill of rights, i suggest you secure a firearm, dig in, and firmly state your intentions to keep your freedom.

    the US government has 10x more guns than it has men.. and the men they do have are your brothers, neighbors, cousins, and sons.. the will of the people can not be ignored by any government. there was once a time in antiquity when the roman army had to dispatch large squads of men to protect the tax man.. why? because when he came knocking on the peasant's door he was never seen again. the US has put itself in a situation where there is not enough soldiers to protect the other soldiers, let alone the tax man. murder the fucking tax man, and send a message that we, the people, are the source of a government's strength, and we are revoking their "divine right" to represent us.
  • by dognts ( 1236660 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:28PM (#22370796)
    Good point but doesn't our constitution give us those rights that he is against? Now is the problem with this with him and his beliefs or with the American public letting our own government get away with what they do because some one like him believes what he does. Now was the constitution given to us because it was needed to protect us from some one else beliefs? I think so, but not just from foreign beliefs but from beliefs from with in our own country that could be forced upon us by the treats of punishment. I don't really need to read, not that it is a bad thing to do mind you, about someone else beleifs to have a little common sence about things. We have protected rights against our government doing some of the things they do and no one holds them accountable to that to the point every one forgets that we have them. Of course we have let them erode those rights to the point of letting them right laws protecting themselves from accountabilty. Shame on us! We the people have done this no one else and thats sad, because its we the people who are going to have to reverse it even though that means maybe breaking the law to do so. Thats the integratiy that I was referring to that out founding fathers had and that we don't have. I am all for everyone including Qtub having thier own beliefs but I am not in agreement with whats going on today. Now what is there to do about it? I know that I will probably catch alot of slack from this and thats okay maybe something else will come from it all. Something good I hope like everyone taking thier blinders of and seeing things at the most basic level and doing something about. Catch Ya Later!
  • by Maxmin ( 921568 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:29PM (#22370804)

    Well, there's the No-Fly List. I know a civil rights attorney in Manhattan who has to drive or take the train much of the time, because he's on the federal govt's unpublished, unacknowledged No-Fly List. He's never been charged with a crime, he's not a terrorist ... but his firm represents a handful of them down at Guantanamo, and he's filed briefs on their behalf.

    He's a Jew of European descent, caucasian by appearance. I think it's down to his job and the actions his firm takes on behalf of Guantanamo detainees.

  • by Lord Dreamshaper ( 696630 ) <> on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:51PM (#22371018)
    I think I speak for a lot of people in a lot of countries when I say my problem is that I wonder when it's our turn, if not by military means then by economic means. There's an awful lot of gas and oil up here in Canada...
  • by arminw ( 717974 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @02:01PM (#22371144)
    .......we the people who are going to have to reverse it even though that means maybe breaking the law to do so........

    No, we don't have to break any laws, we have to break the lawmakers by voting them out of office and putting in people who will listen to the voters, rather than money.

    One definition of insanity is: "Doing the same thing over an over again and expecting a different result each time. As long as a legislator can spend a lifetime in office, even if demonstrated to be totally in the pocket of the big moenybags, being voted in again and again, how can anything change?

    Right now a certain female wants to get into office. She and her husband are for big business, even if that big business is in opposition to the people and the little competitors.
  • by TarPitt ( 217247 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @02:04PM (#22371164)
    Truth is, this is likely to encourage companies to a: use a securId on their computers or b: not to put corporate data on the computer and make it only accessible via a corporate VPN.

    They've already got that one covered:

    In 2003 AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities. []

    I think it is reasonable to assume most commercially available VPN-based encryption (as well as TLS/SSL) can be broken by the NSA. Even if this is not the case, traffic analysis based on unencrypted headers can reveal a lot about what is being communicated to whom.

    If I were just a bit more paranoid, I'd say the point of laptop confiscation is to force commercial entities to use easily broken commercial crypto over communications lines that are already heavily wiretapped.
  • Re:not the answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @02:33PM (#22371450) Journal
    my employer has made it clear that they want their employees to cooperate fully with these searches, and afterwards tell corporate security. Realistically, it's the only reasonable thing for the company to expect.

    Is this explained to your clients in your companies privacy policy? I'm rather interested in knowing what my credit card companies policy is regarding data safety. Unfortunately, that part of the web site doesn't work. [] Some of the information being seized may be my information, even though I am not the one traveling. Do I have legal recourse if my information is copied from the laptop of a company I do business with?
  • by @madeus ( 24818 ) <> on Sunday February 10, 2008 @02:36PM (#22371478)

    At the Dulles airport, they make crap up and just hassle you because they can. You feel like you're in East Germany in 1961.

    But what can you do? ...

    Now of course, Airports are beyond miserable.
    Amen to that.

    FWIW, this is why I won't be going back to the US any time soon (although I've been there several times in the past, and to Canada). I really like the US, I like the people and the country. Americans are some of the warmest most friendly and helpful people anywhere in the world. I have relatives there and I could quite happily spend my holidays there every year, one state at a time.

    The US tourist board run adverts on TV telling us to come visit at [], which - given the way they treat you when you do get there, post 9/11 - is entirely a mixed message it seems to me. Trips there are nothing but a hassle with endless queuing and stupid security checks. I've had on multiple trips and the absolutely insane delays and had to deal with concentration-camp guards that pass for Airport security staff that ask you stupid pointless questions and what you do for a living.

    For example, on our last trip (which I didn't want to go on, but a relative had just died, and there was a service):

    We didn't have all the technical details of where we were staying at every point in our trip - we didn't need them - but they detained us because we didn't have them. They then directed us to a computer and let us *Google for them*. We filled out the details and they let us on our way. I have no idea what the point in that was. I could have named any hotel chain in a nearby city and said "oh yeah, that one", it's not like they called to check.

    You certainly can't expect to turn up and just "take each day as it comes" as they expect you to say exactly where you will be and where you are staying. Personally I like to be spontaneous and free wheeling while I'm on holiday - especially when I'm visiting somewhere like the US where there is so much to see. On the last two trips I did multiple flights internally too, that was also an unbelievable hassle. Even the major airports are not designed to have large queues like there are now - clearly waiting areas and shopping areas have been altered to turn them into giant queuing zones.

    Of course there are queues at UK airports and some silly rules (e.g. flying from Heathrow to a domestic airport requires you take off your shoes, but fly back to Heathrow from a domestic airport and you don't have to) but the delays don't seem any worse than pre 9/11, especially now that new faster facilities are available. The security staff are by and large pretty chilled out. I've heard of some abuses by immigration officials specifically (who seem to be hired primarily on the basis of how much they hate foreigners), but I've also seen them shrug off abuse and being ranted at at by drunk passengers late for a flight for having to wait all of 10 minutes to go through security (from guys who were quite obviously in the bar when they should have been checking in).

    I'm looking forward to a future administration sorting this mess out and restoring some semblance of normality, I just hope that happens sooner rather than later. I know the US economy is a behemoth but the current regime has got to be hurting trade and tourism and impacting on the bottom line (I'm sure it's denting consumer confidence too, and so helping to depress the domestic market).
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @02:51PM (#22371634)

    I guess one could make a trigger mechanism that would be set off by the metal detector itself... dammit, now I'm thinking like an engineer/terrorist!

    Or you could just go to a phone booth, call the airport, say that you've planted bombs in the airport, hang up and walk away. Your friends could help by firing firecrackers close by.

  • by TarPitt ( 217247 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:30PM (#22371992)
    and after 9/11 when these restrictions were put into place, we were forbidden by company policy from taking any classified documents or other classified material with us on board commercial flights for just this reason.

    We have to send it in advance via secure courier now.

    Which leads me to believe the TSA doesn't care if you stuff is labeled "classified", they will go ahead and search it anyway
  • by dognts ( 1236660 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:48PM (#22372166)
    Maybe your right about we don't have to break the law. Maybe our government will quit interpreting the law in such a way that we break it anyway you look at it also. I would agree with you about breaking the lawmakers by voting if you could do that. I mean it is suppose to be the way it works right? I'll remind you of what you typed if I may? One defination of insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time". Isn't that what voting is? Especially after the last election where it was taken to such great extent to prove to everyone that your vote, and or that act of voting doesn't mean anything? I agree with you about the certian party running for office. I also don't beleave our country would be best servered with the others. So where does that leave the voting process. Who really decided who we get to vote for. The people? I don't believe that for one minute. Now back to my point. Who's fault is all this. We the people because we let it happen. That includes myself by the way. So given the cercumstance as they really are what do you propose as a method of correcting this? As I have said to others there isn't any shame in resorting to violence to correct such an unjust situation, just alot off shame that that is the only avenue that has been left for one to do so to accomplish it. No I don't advocate using violence but whatelse is left. I mean really it did work in the past when our founding fathers was facing the same thing and I can't really believe anyone would shame them for it. If there be a better way I am all for it as long as it accomplishes getting America Back to being America! Somethings never change no matter how insane one feels about it!
  • On data encryption (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fuji Kitakyusho ( 847520 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @04:06PM (#22372308)
    The importance of encrypting your data cannot be overstated. Even if you are not travelling with valuable intellectual property, the fact remains that most personal and business computers contain a wealth of information suitable for datamining. The oft quoted sentiment "If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear." misses the point - I DO have something to hide - everything, in fact. Nothing criminal or otherwise illegitimate, but in the interest of privacy, I have no desire to disseminate the details of my associations, my business activity, my financial transactions, my personal communications, my sexual activities, my political opinions or even what I had for breakfast this morning, to any party for whom that information was not intended. Ergo, I make a point of storing sensitive information (intellectual property, etc.) in strongly encrypted files, and then nesting those along with everything else within a fully encrypted drive. If I were particularly paranoid (and I'm paranoid enough to have thought of it, but as yet not so much as to have implemented it), I could ensure that the relevant cryptographic keys are unknown to me and only able to be retrieved either from my client or from my office remotely. I understand that this thread has to do with confiscation of hardware, and that in of itself is certainly annoying, and perhaps unpreventable barring a significant change of law; however, the value of a laptop computer is limited, and the hardware itself is replaceable. The same cannot be said of the data carried on it, and in the event my laptop is confiscated, lost or stolen, I would like the worst-case scenario to be that I or my company is out the replacement cost of the hardware only, without having to worry about trade secrets being compromised, identity theft, data mining for nefarious purposes or unauthorized dissemination of contact information. I run a dual-boot machine with Debian GNU/Linux and Windows XP Professional. If you really want to be entertained, watch an airport security "professional" try to navigate around a system with X disabled.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2008 @06:05PM (#22373418)
    Posting as AC to avoid hassles at work, though none of this is secret. I work for a government contractor. We've carried working (non-classified) defense system components in our carry-ons before.

    One such case:

    TSA: "What is that?"
    US: (we answer truefully)
    TSA: "It's not going to melt the plane or turn on while you're flying or anything, is it?"
    US: "No, it doesn't have a power supply."
    TSA: "Well, we're going to need check it for explosives."
    US: "We'd really rather you didn't take it out of the case; it's fragile."
    TSA guy: 'Ok. We'll just check the outside then.'

    And that was it. We were wearing our company polo shirts, and we had some paperwork on company letterhead we could have waved around, but no one even asked.
  • by FLEB ( 312391 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @09:35PM (#22374994) Homepage Journal
    And they were patting down a disabled WWII vet in a wheelchair. I told the fresh out of high school kid that he should be embarrassed.

    If you're going to have random (or universal) searches, though, they should always be at least random. If you have exemption criteria that mandates disregarding a "hit", then you're allowing a loophole that becomes a known "pass". How hard would it be for the ever-present "potential terrorist" to fake being a wheelchair-bound war vet? For that matter, is it completely outside the bounds that a wheelchair-bound vet might have terrorist intentions?

    Admittedly, I'm not that well-traveled, but from the couple times I've been to the Cancun airport in Mexico, I really liked their random screening method for customs. There's a big traffic light and a button, presumably on a randomizer. Hit the button: if it buzzes and goes red, your stuff gets the high-intensity search. Not only does it give an exciting game-show contestant mentality to the whole thing, it also makes it clear to everyone involved that it's just plain luck-of-the-draw, whoever's chosen.
  • by quintessentialk ( 926161 ) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:15PM (#22375266)
    As I wondered on another thread: What is this fascination with airports? Why don't the terrorists just blow up a mall or grocery store somewhere? There'd be no security to speak of, no need for identification, and it would get people in a more 'everyday' environment, which is much more personal than flying (something many of us probably don't do every day, or even every year).
  • by gronofer ( 838299 ) on Monday February 11, 2008 @03:29AM (#22376852)

    The biggest problem with security is that it is put in the hands of the lowest blue-collared individuals.

    No, this is just a symptom of the biggest problem, which is that the people at the top are completely clueless.

    Check out this article [] which shows just how bad it's getting.

  • by webweave ( 94683 ) on Monday February 11, 2008 @12:40PM (#22380142)
    I've done the Knoppix thing for many years, very handy when traveling. I've never had a laptop "stolen" but I've been asked a number of times to open it up and turn it on. They did not recognize the mac start up routine and I had to wait for a full boot to convince them. Now I just replaced the mac boot image screen with the windows desktop image and I'm off.

    Thanks for this article /. , I'm never going to bring anything but a freshly rebuilt laptop with only the data I need into the USA.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.