Use Full Disk Encryption to Stop Computer Search at US Border – UPDATED!

Your computer, cell phone, and other digital devices can be seized and searched anytime you cross the border into the US.

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Update May 28, 2014

The Truecrypt website is in a state of flux. We do NOT recommend using Truecrypt at this time. Please check back often until we have more clarity on the Truecrypt situation.

Original Post

See this article for more details:  Laptops and Other Electronics may be seized on entry to US

To preserve your privacy and prevent border agents from searching your computer I suggest you implement Full Disk Encryption (FDE) with a strong password on your notebook computer. With FDE it is nearly impossible to start the computer or otherwise read the data on the disk without the password. If you refuse to divulge the password it is highly unlikely that the data on the machine can be extracted in any reasonable length of time using currently available technology. If everyone used FDE the practice of searching computers at the border would cease overnight since it would be impossible to break encryption on the millions of computers entering the country every day. Until then you just need to make it difficult enough to search your computer that they move on to the next guy.

If you not yet using FDE on your computer there are a number of commercial and open source options available to you. For Windows users we suggest Truecrypt as an easy, fast and free FDE solution. Whatever FDE product you use, we recommend that you backup all your data before attempting to install any FDE solution since if something goes wrong you can lose everything! You’ve been warned! Once you’ve got encryption setup on the computer don’t forget to go back and encrypt your USB keys and other backup media too.

Important! If you’re using a notebook computer, be sure to either turn off the computer or put it in hibernate mode whenever you’re not using it.  Normally if you just close the lid on a notebook computer it goes into what is known as “suspend mode” where the computer is live but in a low power state. A computer in suspend mode can be hacked very easily even if the disk is fully encrypted. The smart thing to do is to change the default action for closing the lid from suspend to hibernate. Hibernate should be secure provided the hibernate file is stored on an encrypted partition. The only disadvantages of changing the lid close action from suspend to hibernate is that you have to reenter the FDE password each time you open the lid and it takes slightly longer to get back to your programs and documents. For anyone concerned about security however entering the password is a mandatory feature rather than an inconvenience!

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1 comment

  1. Humberto Ohrt

    Hey great site I really enjoyed the read thank you for posting such valuable info and keeping up with the latest trends.