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High-Tech Gadgets Can Pose Problems At Mexican Border 447

TechnologyResource writes "Going across the border will be a more 'interesting' experience since Customs and Border Protection will now be checking laptops, digital cameras, cell phones and any other electronics on your person or in your vehicle. It's not a new authority, according to Angelica De Cima, Office of Public Affairs Liaison 'They've always had the right to inspect your person, vehicle, baggage, anything on you. Nothing has changed from before,' De Cima said."
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High-Tech Gadgets Can Pose Problems At Mexican Border

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  • Linux laptop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darylium ( 1015809 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:56PM (#29534611)
    I wonder what they'll do when they search my 'unusable' Linux laptop.
  • Re:Linux laptop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:08PM (#29534773) Homepage Journal

    Years ago I left Adelaide on a domestic flight with a laptop loaded with mandrake in my luggage. The departure was delayed 30 minutes on an excuse (said they needed to change a wheel, but I could see the plane and that didn't happen). So I got to Melbourne, unpacked the laptop and the battery was dead flat. It must have been started after I packed it, and not stopped properly.

  • Going or coming? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by supe ( 163410 ) * on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:11PM (#29534803) Journal

    What's the search pattern for *leaving* the US?
    Are the boarder countries as paranoid as the US?

  • Re:Fuck All Mexicans (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:33PM (#29535043) Journal

    Actually what I find kind of interesting is that bit by bit, generation by generation, Mexicans are in fact retaking a fair chunk of their country that the US stole from them through some trumped up wars (including a delightful little proxy war in Texas). I figure by 2100 in many areas of Texas, New Mexico and California, English will be taught as a second language.

  • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:58PM (#29535275) Homepage

    ICE has the constitutional right

    Since you seem to know, and I'm too lazy to hunt it down, where, precisely (article and section), in the US constitution is this "right" (I presume you really mean "power") given to the executive branch of the federal government?

  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:04PM (#29535315)

    This seems like a violation of individual rights with little point behind it. TFA pretty much indicates they may search someone just for the way they look. What exactly are they hoping to find on these devices? The file labeled super_secret_spy_plan.txt? A file can be disguised as anything else. hell, you could take a picture of your 'plan' through a colored lens and save it as a jpeg and call it dinner.jpg and unless someone went through the hundreds of thousands of files on a PC, or a software did, what would they find?

    Hell, you could drop a file and just erase it from the directory tables. File is still there, just not overwritten.

    This seems to me to be nothing more than a lame attempt to either frighten, or catch really stupid people.

  • information (Score:2, Interesting)

    by deodiaus2 ( 980169 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:33PM (#29535499)
    Well, most high school hackers can get around this issue. Suppose that you want to bring in information on a laptop. You take your information and run it through a compression and encryption algorithm. You then run an utility which writes this data inside a deleted segment of the hard drive. Unless the border security are exceptionally bright and computer savvy, I doubt that they can find even where to look. Maybe they have a utility program at the border which automates this process. I doubt that unless you are a strong suspect, most security guards have any idea of how to approach this issue. Personally, I like the idea of hiding the SanDisk in a cupcake or an iPod up your ass. BTW, isn't this a great way to get rid of your old computer hardware. Just rename a garbled file as AlQuida battle plans and drop it off at the border. Maybe you might get a free trip to Gitmo.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:58PM (#29535637) Homepage Journal

    Of course, they'll have their work cut out for them when the United States becomes the next Nazi Germany and they're tasked with sealing the borders.

    The NEXT Nazi germany? Pretty sure we're already unilaterally projecting our power up anyone's ass we feel like, in the name of ideology. Nobody is going to seal the US borders though. It's not necessary. I do predict some race wars in California, though, when the economy REALLY crashes. Unemployment is still going up, personal savings down, inflation up even if it's not really being admitted yet. Another great depression is imminent. I just hope we get some decent public works out of it.

  • by Yejiju ( 1643935 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:04PM (#29535661)
    As a foreign college student that has to deal with the customs every year coming back in to states from my own country, nothing is more painful than experiencing 'Customs and Border Protection'. It is fairly understandable that U.S. government is sooo strict about the incomers that may possibly possess the harm against States. But there will be some kind of loss from too much inspection such as losing elite business men's interests in visiting U.S. and I might not across the border on this spring break even if I've been wanting to visit MEXICO for so long. Just too much inspections to handle. And no, I don't do or bring or take or hide anything that threatens this country.
  • Re:apparently (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:12PM (#29535705) Journal

    There's no loophole in the fourth amendment, just a sad unwillingness to enforce it on the part of the supreme court. The fourth amendment doesn't say "except at the border, or anywhere within about a hundred miles of the border."


  • Re:Going or coming? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:14PM (#29535721) Journal

    lies.. i had to stand at the canadian border for an hour while they searched all my stuff and every compartment in my car all while getting the third degree from two border guards.. then i had to go into the immigration building and spend another half hour convincing the woman in there that i was actually going to leave canada in under a week and not stay there permanently.

    I guess you fell into the wrong half of the time GP mentioned. On my side, I can tell you that I didn't have any problems crossing the border in that direction twice I had to do it (and I'm neither US nor Canada national, so it's supposed to be harder for me). In fact, I didn't even have to get out of my car.

    In contrast, crossing from Canada to US requires fingerprinting at the very least, and typically a grilling by the border guard as well.

  • Re:YRO??!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:25PM (#29535783) Journal
    Ever flown through Ireland, not even as a final destination? It's worse than any American customs stop I've been through.

    Um, yeah - About three months ago, actually. We got off our plane, followed the signs around this amazingly convoluted set of hallways to the passport-check area, only to find...

    No one there.

    Waited about five minutes, figuring someone had gone to the bathroom, and didn't see a single uniformed person (got passed by plenty of people walking right on through without even pausing, though).

    So, we walked through and onto our connecting flight.

    Granted, we went from one "secure" area to another, so I really didn't see the need to go through customs at all, but literally, we merely walked past an unattended desk. Simple as that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:40PM (#29535869)

    OK, guys, here's the protocol for safely taking information across a border:

    Create lots of random bits. Actual randomness, not pseudorandomness. Put them on a storage medium, say a big SD card. XOR your data with that random stream of bits and store the result on a server in your country. (Ideally the server should be where you also store the data normally, in your home or business location, so that no network surveillance will be able to grab it while you upload the encrypted data to the server.) Take the SD card across the border. If you're searched and the SD card is found and copied, you erase it and go back to step one. They have nothing. There is no key that you have to hide. The random bits are the key. They can have that. The data is not on your person. If the SD card is not found or not inspected, you can later proceed to download your encrypted data from the server across the border. Encrypting by XORing with a random stream of bits is called a "one time pad" and is mathematically proven to be uncrackable (the only encryption with that property so far). You get your data by XORing the downloaded stream with the random stream of bits on your SD card. Once you've decrypted the data, erase the SD card to prevent yourself from using the random bits again, because that would be unsafe. As long as you can guarantee that only you have both sets of data, nobody but you can decrypt any of it and neither file provides any information about the encrypted data.

    This protocol relies on the fact that it is practically impossible to prevent people from taking storage media across the border (think music players, cameras, etc.) and that inspecting, let alone copying, each and every digital storage medium is infeasible.

  • by kandresen ( 712861 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:40PM (#29536173)

    I can just imagine how happy the criminal communities will be for such news. Imagine - every single guard with proper authentication can single out people for a "screening" which include all digital identity, including your pictures, digital records which most certainly contain some references to username/passwords to banks and other web-services, business documents such as contracts, contacts, proposals, and so on and so on. Every criminals dream! All in the disguise that they are there to ensure you don't have any indecent pictures or something. How long to we get the first scandal, or has that already happened?

  • Re:YRO??!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kklein ( 900361 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:49PM (#29536569)

    I've not been to Japan, but I've heard it's a treat there too.

    Yes, it is. I get in line, show my passport, get my photo and fingerprints taken (this is new, and was implemented in response to the US system), get my bags, hand my card to customs, tell them I don't have any drugs, and walk into the terminal.

    Only once has anyone gone through my bags, and it was after a winter of backpacking around Asia, which showed up on my passport as going in and out of China a few times in a few weeks.

    My laptop or other devices have never been checked, and I've never heard of them checking them.

    On the contrary, when I go back to my home country of the US, I am made to feel like a threat. Paramilitary immigration and customs officers bark orders at me, and one time tried to separate my Japanese wife from me and question her about why she only had $5 for a 3-week visit (joint bank account in the US with her American husband, morons--ever heard of an ATM?). My stuff is riffled through every time, and they have on several occasions destroyed my belongings with their crude handling (scratched an otherwise perfect guitar that I was selling, and put a bottle of shampoo that they had opened back in the bag WITHOUT SCREWING THE TOP ON). --All without my having any recourse to the law.

    I've been in and out of China--a totalitarian regime--and it is far, far more pleasant than the US.

    I almost never go back to see friends and family anymore--and, believe it or not, a part of the reason for that is the shitty treatment I get from my countrymen at the border.

  • by linuxhansl ( 764171 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:54PM (#29536599)
    Of course the excuse mentioned in the article had to be the good and tried child porn excuse.
    While I find sexual acts on children despicable and inexcusable, I am sick and tired of seeing my civil liberties eroded away by the same excuse over and over again.

    It does not even help! One can put any questionable content on a memory stick and mail it across countries. If the content is encrypted one doesn't even have to worry about it being intercepted. If it is intercepted, just send another one.
    In fact that is probably what I am going to do with private photographs/movies from now on (my parents and I live in different countries). The border agents then can nose around on my laptop all the want, without invading my private life. The point is that I should not have to do that.

    Any terrorist actually caught during a border search is likely too stupid to carry out said terrorist act anyway.

  • Re:YRO??!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by z80kid ( 711852 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:16PM (#29540631)

    In all seriousness though, "not alterable" doesn't mean what you think it means. Go to a few gun shows and you will see that they sell kits to "fix" your old pre-1994-assult-weapons-ban gun.
    The ban also expired in 2004

    Fully automatic weapons that fire continuously have been virtually banned (again, see the federal criteria for owning one - "class III license") since the gun control act of 1934.

    None of this has anything to do with the Clinton gun ban, which banned guns that look like military rifles, along with some accoutrements such as bipods, bayonets, scary looking stocks, etc.

    Yes, you can alter them to add the bayonets and bipods back. But the guns sold here must have a reciever that cannot fit a fully-automatic bolt group.

    You told me to go to a gun show. I'm a collector and I've been to dozens. How many have you visited? Have you ever asked a dealer what you need to do to purchase a fully-automatic rifle or machine gun?

    I'd really encourage anyone with strong opinions on the subject to do so, and get some first hand knowledge. Every now and then someone will agree to come with me, and when they talk to the dealers and ask what the laws are, they are generally quite surprised.

  • by Gilmoure ( 18428 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:13PM (#29541247) Journal

    Have you ever tried housework wearing just high-heels and pearls? If nothing else, it encourages the neighbors to stop looking in your windows. At least until they get goggles and eye-bleach.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson