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"Sterilizing" electronic equipment before coming thru CBP?

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Old Feb 14, 17, 12:22 am
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"Sterilizing" electronic equipment before coming thru CBP?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/13/us/cit...t-border-trnd/

I don't know about everyone else but having someone look thru personal electronics (computer/phone) feels worse than someone searching thru your home... I mean, all of our personal/financial details, including pictures, personal/work emails & files, social media, instant messages, phone logs, the whole 9 yards.

Our phones these days are basically encrypted and backed up to the cloud.. so if you get a new phone, mostly everything gets synched to it. However, after they force you to give up password to your phone, and take it away for 30 minutes, EVERYTHING gets copied off.

In light of this, does anyone think of possibly pre-planning what they would do to safeguard from this sort of intrusion into our personal lives?

Maybe we can start a list of the "practical" things we can protect ourselves with... Among the things I can think of...
  • Disconnect / uninstalling social media (fb/ig/twitter/linkedin/etc)
  • Disconnect / uninstalling work related stuffs (gmail)
  • Disconnect / uninstall / limit personal media (I would think that its fine to search thru 2-3 weeks worth of photos, but NOT cool to look thru 2-3 years)
  • Dropbox (Unsynch folders, uninstall from phone/notebook computer)

Me: US Citizen w/ Global Entry, Precheck, ABTC Card, int'l travel every 4-6 weeks (no Europe/middle east). I've earned my SSSS stripes coming back from Japan/Singapore/China trip so as I'm on the watchlist now, somewhat paranoid, lol.
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Old Feb 14, 17, 1:15 pm
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I leave my personal iPhone at home and bring an unlocked GSM flip phone. I use a local prepaid SIM card for calling home. Like the NASA guy, I also travel with USG-supplied IT equipment. Everything except the operating system and Microsoft Office is in our encrypted cloud. I asked the question of our CIO the other day and they told us to not divulge passwords to our government IT. Instead, we were told to call the general counsel's office from the airport and seek advice.
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Old Feb 14, 17, 11:25 pm
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I am also considering to take a "dummy" smartphone while I travel abroad - not just because of the possibility of getting searched but in case I lose it, it gets stolen, etc.

I never thought about the possibility of having it searched by anyone.
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Old Feb 14, 17, 11:31 pm
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While I have nothing on my iPhone or iPad to hide I've started disabling Touch ID for unlocking the device when dealing with the TSA or CBP.
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Old Feb 14, 17, 11:48 pm
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Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic View Post
While I have nothing on my iPhone or iPad to hide I've started disabling Touch ID for unlocking the device when dealing with the TSA or CBP.
Why did you disable that?
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Old Feb 15, 17, 2:49 am
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Originally Posted by SilverSpy57 View Post
Why did you disable that?
Touch ID can enable access using a finger or fingerprint even without the consent of the person whose finger/fingers/fingerprints are being used. Even a photograph of a fingerprint can sometimes be used to bypass a fingerprint-based security feature.

That said, there are some fingerprint games that can be played by a device owner that frustrate such efforts to bypass owner's consent by using the fingerprints or fingers against the owner's consent (free of duress).

For sensitive data security, I suggest using segregated devices and wiping clean the devices being taken through screening checkpoints, being transported across borders or even being checked in (the worst idea of the lot) as hold luggage.

Using the devices as a client to remotely access info over a secured channel is a much more reliable means of avoiding being compromised by these searches. Less is more when it comes to locally stored data and minimizing exposure of sensitive data.

Last edited by GUWonder; Feb 15, 17 at 2:55 am
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Old Feb 15, 17, 8:54 am
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So far we've never had TSA or CBP question or ask anything about our phones, tablets, or laptops. I'm not particularly worried about it even if they did as there is nothing on any of them that would be an issue. We don't take our personal laptop on vacation much anymore but when we do it's our smaller one that is reserved pretty much for travel. It has no real personal information on it and we use it for checking email and minor Internet surfing. They can look at our Facebook pages I guess and would probably come back and say "You all are boring!"
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Old Feb 15, 17, 9:46 am
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OK I've been getting freaked out about this. I'm going overseas next week and I don't want any trouble coming back. I ordered a "sacrificial" iPhone in which I'll put my extra SIM card in it, and use it as a minimalist phone. Minimal social media profile. If they ask me to unlock the phone, I'll gladly give it to them. Here you go. Look all you want. Nothing to see.
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Old Feb 15, 17, 5:35 pm
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Flip phones and generic refurbished tablets when I travel and even have gotten my kids to do the same.

One other area people tend to forget about are USB sticks.
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Old Feb 15, 17, 6:38 pm
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Originally Posted by SilverSpy57 View Post
Why did you disable that?
While it's unknown how it would apply to this particular type of situation, courts have ruled that you can be compelled via order to unlock your phone via bio-metrics. However, if it's only passcode protected, it falls under the 5th and you can refuse to provide it.
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Old Feb 15, 17, 6:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Randyk47 View Post
They can look at our Facebook pages I guess and would probably come back and say "You all are boring!"
I might have said the same until I read this article:
https://www.sott.net/article/342740-...her-should-you
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Old Feb 16, 17, 2:41 am
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SIM replacement -- and perhaps better yet with a number change -- may be something to do if the device was or may be removed from your custody while dealing with government agencies. Phone replacement/substitution is also something to consider.
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Old Feb 16, 17, 7:58 am
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Originally Posted by GUWonder View Post
SIM replacement -- and perhaps better yet with a number change -- may be something to do if the device was or may be removed from your custody while dealing with government agencies. Phone replacement/substitution is also something to consider.
My old flip phone allows you to store data in either the phone's memory or on the SIM. It's a good idea to remove all data (pictures, call logs, contacts, etc) from the phone and only store it on the SIM you use overseas. Then, while airborne back to the U.S., swap out the SIM with the data on it with another SIM that either has nothing on it or is inactive. I use my old T-Mobile SIM that became deactivated when I bought a smartphone. The phone boots up normally but there is absolutely nothing in it.
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Old Feb 16, 17, 8:24 am
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Originally Posted by GUWonder View Post
SIM replacement -- and perhaps better yet with a number change -- may be something to do if the device was or may be removed from your custody while dealing with government agencies. Phone replacement/substitution is also something to consider.
Which I did after the Canadians took my phone and did who knows what to it. Hard factory reset, followed by eventual SIM replacement. The phone itself is being physically replaced this week; might even have been my old phone that CBSA searched, then that was replaced shortly thereafter by my current phone, which is being replaced this week. Canada is allowed by their laws to deny entry to non-citizens (I am US citizen only) if you do not unlock your phone for them, unless one of the court cases involving this has been resolved in the other direction that I'm not aware of (Alain Philippon pleaded guilty so that one won't be rising the ladder of the Canadian court system).

Interestingly, I was approved for NEXUS a couple of years later, so even if they kept a copy of all of my information, there clearly wasn't anything so bad (in the phone contents if kept, or in whatever file CBSA has on me) as to prevent me from NEXUS approval. To be fair, I'm a pretty boring person with a very mundane job and a voluminous but mostly uninteresting travel history .
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Old Feb 16, 17, 1:13 pm
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Why not get a burner phone for when you travel?
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