Think having your underwear rifled through is pretty rough when you are traveling? Well, try crossing an international boarder with a laptop. Boarder patrol claims they can boot up your laptop and search it. Even if you comply and they don’t find anything, they can still detain your laptop for further searching. What are you to do? Here is a little guide out on C|Net.
What’s the big deal if you are a law abiding citizen? Well, what if you work for a company that has private records, internal or customer records, that you are required by law to keep private? That would be a breach if you grant them access. Maybe they might discover something you picked up on accident and decide you are smuggling inappropriate material?
This reminds me of a paraphrase of a quote attributed to Ben Franklin “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
A practical solution to keeping data safe, without being too suspicious would be If you were to have a VMWare image that were encrypted. So you could boot up to your unsecured desktop and it would appear normal. Then you could decrypt the VMWare drive image and boot into it, where all your secure data could be kept. If needed you have backups of that secure data and you could wipe out the VMWare image. Read the article though, there are some other good resources and points as well.
Honestly, I think if you were seriously in need of transporting sensitive information over an international border then I believe your best bet would be to mail encrypted DVD’s to your destination (multiple copies via different carriers, just to be sure) and take a brand new never been powered on laptop with you. Combine that with their advice to download other data electronically once you are there would work great. That would also circumvent any installed Spyware/fedware they might install since you can just format and reinstall from the encrypted DVDs when you get there.
It you wanted to you could use steganography to encode your encrypted data into DVD family videos. It would take more disks, but you could do that too. The advantage of DVD’s is you know they are read only, additionally you could check a hash to make sure they are your originals.
The thing that really annoys me, is it is obvious that someone who really wants to get something over the boarder can easily circumvent their system making it is for the most part useless. So why subject the rest of us to the invasion of privacy and inconvenience for a system that doesn’t work? This takes us back to Mr. Franklin’s quote.