Encryption While Traveling

When I was asked to provide advisories for the Patriot Privacy and Security Society, I decided that the most important goal I can accomplish is to provide you with specific information and knowledge that will allow you to better protect yourself and your family from the increasing threats to your privacy and security.

In short, I want you to obtain value from your membership in the society.

Often, that value will come from me sharing the knowledge I’ve gained from my personal experiences working in the privacy and security profession for more than 30 years.

Today, that value is going to come from a free resource that I use and that I want to share with you.

As you know, any time you cross the border of a nation, the electronic devices you carry are subject to being searched.

But, here’s something you may not have thought about – at least not yet.

Here in the United States, Department of Homeland Security agents – including Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents – are starting to spread out beyond airports and border crossings. Reports of American citizens being stopped and searched inside the country are mounting by the day.

That means it’s only a matter of time until the electronic devices you routinely carry – especially laptops and smartphones – become subject to the types of searches happening at our borders and airports.

Indeed, even regular police officers are starting to examine the smartphones of American citizens during routine traffic stops.

For those reasons it’s time for every American to think about encryption when it comes to the electronic devices they routinely carry, not just the personal computers they have at home or at the office.

So here’s a free source from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that I want to share with you as you start to think about whether you need to encrypt the information and data on your portable electronic devices and, if so, how to encrypt that data.

“Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices”

Within this free resource, you’ll find the following topics covered:

1) Why Can My Devices Be Searched at the Border?

2) How the Government Searches Devices at the Border

3) Deciding How to Protect Your Data

a) Your citizenship, immigration, or residence status

b) Time sensitivities

c) How much hassle you’re willing to tolerate from border agents

d) How important it is for you to have access to your data during your journey

e) How good your Internet access will be during your travels

f) The countries you’ve visited before entering the United States

g) Your history with law enforcement

4) Some Basic Precautions

5) Backups

a) Backups using the Internet

b) Backups using an external hard drive

6) Minimizing Data You Carry

a) The challenges of secure deletion

b) Operating System on an SD Card

7) Encryption

a) Account passwords versus full-disk encryption

b) Choosing a disk encryption tool

c) Choosing a secure passphrase

d) Border agent demands for access to data

8) Technology-specific Considerations

a) Flash drives

b) Mobile phones and similar devices

c) Temporary phones for travel

d) Secure deletion of data and disk encryption for mobile devices

e) Digital cameras

9) Interacting with Border Agents

a) Don’t lie

b) Don’t obstruct an agent’s investigation

c) Courtesy

10) Appendix

Friends, “Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices” is a resource you should review and bookmark.

And, remember, it’s no longer just in airports and at border crossings that your electronic devices may be seized and searched. So, think about what that might mean to the privacy and security of the information you carry with you on a daily basis.

Be safe and secure,

Rob Douglas

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