DHS Introduces Rules for Airport Laptop Checks

There's nothing more annoying than doing the security dance with TSA officials at the airport; but hey, it keeps us all safe. As long as they're not hauling you off to inspect your luggage or perform a physical, the endless packing and repacking of laptops and electronics really isn't so bad.

One thing, though, that a lot of people have a problem with is the laptop checks DHS is allowed to do if they feel like it. Last year DHS polices came to light that said TSA could kidnap any device capable of storing information (including hard drives, flash drives, your cellphone, MP3 player, Kindle, pager, and any books or documents you happen to have lying around) for “a reasonable amount of time.” In other words, as long as they liked. Not only that, they could also share your data with other federal agencies or private entities for language translation, data decryption or, and this one is our personal favorite, “other reasons.”

The Obama administration this week unveiled new rules for searching computers and other electronic devices when people enter the United States. Designed to strike a balance between respecting travelers' privacy and protecting and securing the U.S. borders, the rules are a mix of good and bad as far as the average traveler is concerned.

According to PCWorld, DHS can still search electronic devices during border crossings without suspicion of wrongdoing. So even if you're not acting shady, they can still take away your computer. However, the revised rules stipulate that CBP must complete a search of an electronic device within five days and ICE must complete a search within 30 days.

DHS says that between October 1, 2008 and August 11, 2009, 221 million travelers were processed at U.S. borders and about 1,000 searches of laptop computers were conducted, of which 46 were in-depth examinations. Have you ever had an electronic device searched by DHS? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • razor512
    Yep if your going to travel, encrypt the drive and use a long complex password, you can remove the encryption later, don't use a password that can be brute forced

    use a long one

    they cant force you to give up encryption keys but they can brute force

    be sure the device is off and battery removed as you can recover encryption keys from memory up to 5 minutes in some cases after the laptop has been powered off, so turn it off and remove battery for about 5-10 minutes before packing the laptop up

    if they really want the data on the PC let then spend a few thousand dollars in hiring someone to attempt to crack it

    I have never had my equipment searched but if it ever is, they would have a hard time getting past the encryption only to find out that theres like multiple other encrypted drives and files in the pc, with nothing in them :)

    isn't disappointment great :)

    it is like those Russian dolls toys where when you open it it is the same exact doll just smaller until when you reach the last one and nothing :)


    if theres a limit to the time they can hold a item then do that, put encrypted volumes in your ipods, pocket pc's pda' PSP' cellphones and any other device that holds data. it will be a great way you waste their time

    you don't need anything in them it will still show up as random data in a hex editor

    if enough people do this, the searching will become too expensive and annoying and it will eventually be scrapped

    it is an invasion of privacy, especially if other humans are looking at your content

    how many times have you seen on the news about people sending a computer to a repair shop and the workers will start looking through their personal files

    imagine giving your system to people whose job is to look through your stuff, it is a privacy problem

    if they replaced the human workers with hamsters or squirrels who have no interest in out personal stuff then I will be a little more ok with the searching but the way it is now, it has to stop, it is just a major inconvenience to anyone who goes through with it
    20
  • Shadow703793
    One word: TrueCrypt
    http://www.truecrypt.org/
    They do not have ANY rights to force you to decrypt the data woth out a warrant.
    18
  • SAL-e
    I have been detained for more the 1h after the custom agent found a box of floppy disks. I was searched and the plane was delayed more then 30 min because of me. The big question is when and where this happen?
    It happened on the fly to Moscow from formal socialist country in 1988. I was sure that I will never going to experience police state when I move to USA, but congratulations every one USA now is no better then USSR just 20 years ago.

    There is absolutely no difference if they seize you computer for 30 days or for ever. They need only few minutes to copy entire drive and unlimited time to break the encryption sooner or later. And until I see the source code of Windows I am going to believe that there is backdoor put for them. The only encryption program I trust is TrueCrypt, but it is limited by the under lying OS. There is no way to guaranty that your encryption key was not stored by Windows into the swap file.

    I agree that equipment should be searched for concealed weapons and explosives, but snooping inside my data has no justification at all. I would like to ask everybody to thing for a moment and answer to the following questions:
    1. If terrorist is coming to the country with laptop, the custom holds the laptop, but lets the terrorist enter the country, how this improves our security?
    2. If the government is allowed to hold your computers for data examination, should the government be allowed to hold anyone for 30 days for interrogation to find out what information we are holding in our heads? (Note the brain is much easier to crack!)
    18
  • Other Comments
  • Shadow703793
    One word: TrueCrypt
    http://www.truecrypt.org/
    They do not have ANY rights to force you to decrypt the data woth out a warrant.
    18
  • Chief Tomohawk
    better make sure ur laptop isnt pirated software heaven, lol then ud be in a heap of trouble
    1
  • razor512
    Yep if your going to travel, encrypt the drive and use a long complex password, you can remove the encryption later, don't use a password that can be brute forced

    use a long one

    they cant force you to give up encryption keys but they can brute force

    be sure the device is off and battery removed as you can recover encryption keys from memory up to 5 minutes in some cases after the laptop has been powered off, so turn it off and remove battery for about 5-10 minutes before packing the laptop up

    if they really want the data on the PC let then spend a few thousand dollars in hiring someone to attempt to crack it

    I have never had my equipment searched but if it ever is, they would have a hard time getting past the encryption only to find out that theres like multiple other encrypted drives and files in the pc, with nothing in them :)

    isn't disappointment great :)

    it is like those Russian dolls toys where when you open it it is the same exact doll just smaller until when you reach the last one and nothing :)


    if theres a limit to the time they can hold a item then do that, put encrypted volumes in your ipods, pocket pc's pda' PSP' cellphones and any other device that holds data. it will be a great way you waste their time

    you don't need anything in them it will still show up as random data in a hex editor

    if enough people do this, the searching will become too expensive and annoying and it will eventually be scrapped

    it is an invasion of privacy, especially if other humans are looking at your content

    how many times have you seen on the news about people sending a computer to a repair shop and the workers will start looking through their personal files

    imagine giving your system to people whose job is to look through your stuff, it is a privacy problem

    if they replaced the human workers with hamsters or squirrels who have no interest in out personal stuff then I will be a little more ok with the searching but the way it is now, it has to stop, it is just a major inconvenience to anyone who goes through with it
    20