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[liberationtech] Travel with notebook habit

Matt Mackall mpm at
Thu Dec 27 17:36:16 PST 2012

On Thu, 2012-12-27 at 23:56 +0100, Radek Pilar wrote:
> Full HDD encryption (including swap space and hibernate file) and
> powered down or hibernated (s2disk) machine is the only way to go.

Expect that if you're a target of state oppression that your laptop WILL
be taken away from you for hours at border crossings. This was a routine
occurrence for me between 2001 and 2006 or so. Fortunately for me, I
didn't warrant the big guns: the customs officers involved usually
reported their techs being completely thwarted/baffled by my Linux

However, it would be fairly straightforward to take apart a laptop,
install a hardware keylogger inside, and reassemble it in that sort of
timeframe, then recover your key and decrypt your laptop on your return
trip. So unless you have some sort of tamper-proof seals on your laptop,
you can't trust it once it leaves your physical possession.

Also note that encryption is NOT sufficient. Canadian customs officials
have demanded that I log in to my laptop so they could peruse my photo
collection (?!) as a condition of entering the country and/or being
released from customs. It's easy to imagine much more severe coercion if
the authorities are actually interested in your data. Not having a hard
disk is excellent defense against such coercive privacy invasions but
encryption is not. Since then, I've personally started keeping a dummy,
empty account on my laptop for basic deniability: nothing to see here
but my travel itinerary, can I go now?

But if the operational security or privacy of your laptop actually
matters and you must take a laptop, I have to agree with Jacob: don't
travel with your data. Same applies for cameras and phones.

Mathematics is the supreme nostalgia of our time.

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