IT Security & Network Security News & Reviews: Mobile Data Security: 10 Tips to Avoid Prying Eyes at the U.S. Border
1) Dont Take Any Data With You
Take a laptop with a fresh operating system installed or a phone reset to factory defaults when traveling and download the data once at the destination. With the ability to back up mobile devices online and a plethora of cloud data storage options, this is increasingly becoming a reasonable option, assuming there is enough bandwidth.
2) Have Two Logins
Secured, encrypted data can be stored under one account and general data on the other. If the border agents want you to log in, use the general account. If the IT department emails the password for the secured account to you, you won't even know it at the time of the border crossing.
3) Securely Wipe the Data
This might not be a practical step for business travelers at the beginning of the trip, but after the trip is complete, they can store necessary information online and securely wipe the laptop at the end of the trip. Just deleting or emptying the trash can is not enough to remove the data. Use a data destruction tool to thoroughly scrub the data from the device.
4) Make Regular Backups
This won't stop the government from being able to poke around the files, but it will ensure that if the laptop is taken away for an extended period of time, you can keep working. The EFF strongly recommends encrypting the data before it's even stored elsewhere so that the data remains protected.
5) Encrypt the Drive and Data on Device
Encrypting the information ensures the information stays confidential from unauthorized parties. The EFF advocates using full-disk encryption with strong cryptography on every device. Full-disk encryption with a strong passphrase ensures that border agents cannot access the data without your consent. However, a recent court decision ruled that people can be forced to hand over the passphrase to decrypt the contents, so perhaps it would be best to have the passphrase emailed separately.
6) Copy the Data Onto a Different Device
If network bandwidth is an issue, it might be easier to copy the contents of the drive onto an encrypted external hard drive and send it separately by express mail. "We recommend you don't carry your backup across the border at the same time as the computer it's backing up!" the EFF wrote. Mail the SD card for the digital camera while you are at it.
7) Remove the Hard Drive Before the Trip
Travelers can remove the hard drive containing data before the trip, and run an operating system that can be bootable over a CD or USB during the trip and store all data on the SD card or on other USB devices. Again, encryption is critical. This way, only the data you need during the trip is on you when crossing the border.
8) Power Down the Machine
Don't have the device suspended or in hibernate mode, since there are techniques to bypass encryption passphrases and other protections if the computer wasn't actually turned off. Then, despite all the encryption in place, the agents can poke around the data willy-nilly.
9) Get a Temporary Phone for Travel
This is much easier for users with phones that use the GSM standard, as they can get a different GSM phone and pop in their SIM cards to keep their existing phone numbers. Otherwise, it might be worth just renting a phone or using a disposable device for the duration of the trip.
10) Secure Mobile Devices
Recent releases of Android tablets have encryption options and there are add-on tools that can secure Android devices. WhisperCore from Whisper Systems is currently unavailable due to the recent Twitter acquisition. But TextSecure, which secures text messages sent from the device, is available as open source. BlackBerry devices also have options for secure wipes and remote locks that the IT administrator can enable.