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Detention at the border


uncommon
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I recently read an article about an employee who was detained in US customs and was asked to unlock his phone. The article specified that he was a US citizen.

http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/12/14583124/nasa-sidd-bikkannavar-detained-cbp-phone-search-trump-travel-ban

*Puts on paranoia hat*

Now I run the possibility that homeland security/TSA/CIA/{Insert other federal agencies here} will attempt to gain easy access to rootkit my phone by simply demanding that I unlock my phone for them. I am sure agencies already have the capabilities of doing this in the US, but I can see the same thing could happen at the customs border of other counties as well.
This made me wonder about the legal implications of evading this. For example let's say you are traveling to China, and at immigration they ask you to step aside for some more questions. They could ask me to unlock my phone or be detained for a few days, but what if my phone was already broken and would not turn on at that moment? I think its unlikely for any agency to say, "Well because your phone will not turn on we will detain for a few days just to make sure." I am sure there is a clause somewhere that says they can detain anyone for any reason but the point would be they cannot try and leverage unlimited access to your phone (any possibly most of your life) in exchange for a shorter detained time.
So here are my thoughts on some ways one might make a phone temporary inaccessible on demand if and when they ask you to step aside.


1. Factory default your phone. Not sure I like this option because it would only prevent them from any personal info currently on the phone. It would not stop them from a possible rootkit. If it were me, I would wipe then through the phone away after they do whatever it is they want to do with it.


2. Remove and destroy battery (possibility the usb port as well). I am making the assumption that they agency you encounter does not have the means to forensically take apart and power your phone at the airport. I have never worked at a airport but I know there are a lot of phones out there and I find it unlikely they have the tools and parts to make any or majority of phone operations from a defunct state at an international airport. This obviously means you would need to replace the party you destroy but they cannot access a phone with no power.


What are your thoughts? These are the solutions I was able to think of, I want to know if someone has come up with better solutions.

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I have a burner phone.

Before leaving for wherever I go, I not just factory reset it, I load a new rom.

Then they can have it all they want, nothing is on it. Get into the country, factory reset and flash a new rom again (hey let's be paranoid!) and then put in a nice new prepay simcard.

Leaving, factory reset and flash again.

Laborious? Sure. "Oh if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to worry about". Well screw you, I live in a country with privacy laws thank you.

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16 minutes ago, Rkiver said:

I have a burner phone.

Before leaving for wherever I go, I not just factory reset it, I load a new rom.

Then they can have it all they want, nothing is on it. Get into the country, factory reset and flash a new rom again (hey let's be paranoid!) and then put in a nice new prepay simcard.

Leaving, factory reset and flash again.

Laborious? Sure. "Oh if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to worry about". Well screw you, I live in a country with privacy laws thank you.

hmm a burner phone might be a good idea, but sometimes I like to record like pictures and video and sometimes it adds up to 50gb or so. What do you think the most paranoid feasible way to make sure that data comes back with you?

And for those who say "You should have nothing to hide", this should not apply if you are traveling across many boarders because you do not know what privacy laws they have if they have any at all. They could assume you give up all privacy by entering the country.

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The best thing about that news article is that they took the time to detain him and press him for his phone's PIN, took 30 minutes grabbing all the data off of it, and then proceeded to NOT check his bags or person.

I find that at least slightly evident of the fact that these exercises are not designed for 'our safety' against 'terrorists' at all, and are more aimed at eating away at our rights to privacy.

George Orwell is spinning in his grave.

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29 minutes ago, haze1434 said:

I find that at least slightly evident of the fact that these exercises are not designed for 'our safety' against 'terrorists' at all, and are more aimed at eating away at our rights to privacy.

They never were, The TSA is security theatre at best, privacy invasion at worst.

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About 6 to 8 months after 9/11, I was deployed to the giant sandbox.  We made an overnight stop somewhere and went through a civilian airport to get back to the jets.  Now these are military refuelers, which are also cargo planes.  We had crates with our helmets, armor, and rifles onboard already.  We fly in uniform, so most of us have pocket knives in our pockets and leatherman tools on our belts.  The morons at the gates took our knives.  Can't have us taking over the planes!!  TSA and Homeland Security is a joke.

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  • 2 weeks later...
37 minutes ago, Rkiver said:

Which of course does not apply to anyone who is not a US citizen.

Actually, they search US citizens on a regular basis. Especially along the southern border, Florida, Texas, anywhere on border control highway stops, airports, etc.

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1 hour ago, Rkiver said:

Which of course does not apply to anyone who is not a US citizen.

Even if you are a US citizen you could be traveling to a country with the same data garbing policy. Need to be ready went the time comes and it WILL come.

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My friend Dave here, served in the military, at NSA and was at one time CTO at Diebold before starting TrustedSec. Even with the laws against warrant less searches, he explains about what happens when traveling into the US, which more or less negates that search and seizure protection, since what you bring back with you can be scrutinized, vs more what you took with you. When it comes back in, it's subject to inspection and refusal to do so can lead to detainment.

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  • 1 month later...

I've never had someone ask to see my phone or laptop when going through customs, maybe I don't travel enough to have run into it. I also don't agree with the "if you have nothing to hide" mentality, granted, I don't have anything to hide, but I'm not fond of the idea of people poking into my personal life without good reason other than "we can".

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It's not about "if you have nothing to hide". I hate that argument by people who act as if that's a non issue. It is an issue. It's your right to privacy, and if you're not suspected of a crime, and no probably cause, you can deny them searching it(to an extent). Airports, and border control are part of a special zone that in many aspects is gray area, because of 9/11 and the patriot act type of laws that were put in place. At any given time now, there is a 100 mile radius for all borders of the USA, that are in a supposed "un-constitutional" zone, where they can search, seize and do many things you wouldn't normally expect. You can see some of the map diagrams here: http://www.activistpost.com/2015/06/constitution-free-zones-are-not.html but I am not 100% certain those are all legit. This however, is legit info that is damn scary when you think about the implications it has on our rights and how they interpret them: https://www.aclu.org/other/constitution-100-mile-border-zone

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54 minutes ago, TheCape said:

I've never had someone ask to see my phone or laptop when going through customs, maybe I don't travel enough to have run into it. I also don't agree with the "if you have nothing to hide" mentality, granted, I don't have anything to hide, but I'm not fond of the idea of people poking into my personal life without good reason other than "we can".

I would also like to say, although this incident happened in the US customs I could easily see this happening at the customs border of certain countries such as Russia, china, Germany, etc. All of which have a technology readiness to implement data rape disguise as "inspections" . So while you may not have anything to hide, you can not hold accountable countries who may have nefarious intentions.

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The easiest way (and probably least secure for those guys who know what Android Launchers are) is to use multiple launchers. I use Nova Launcher as my main launcher, but I could unlock my phone and have it launch into a default launcher (Google for e.g.) that just shows default stuff (or you can have it preset to look like you use it alot - Chrome shortcuts, widgets etc.), meanwhile not showing all your super-cool root widgets and programs on the other launcher you use.

Just a quick thought.

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7 hours ago, Dave-ee Jones said:

The easiest way (and probably least secure for those guys who know what Android Launchers are) is to use multiple launchers. I use Nova Launcher as my main launcher, but I could unlock my phone and have it launch into a default launcher (Google for e.g.) that just shows default stuff (or you can have it preset to look like you use it alot - Chrome shortcuts, widgets etc.), meanwhile not showing all your super-cool root widgets and programs on the other launcher you use.

Just a quick thought.

I think you're misunderstanding how they check your phone/laptop at the airport.

Generally, they won't just boot it up and look around it using a GUI. They'll plug it in to a computer that will pull all of the data from it, including files located in 'another launcher'.

Having multiple launchers will not hide the data.

Edited by haze1434
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3 hours ago, haze1434 said:

I think you're misunderstanding how they check your phone/laptop at the airport.

Generally, they won't just boot it up and look around it using a GUI. They'll plug it in to a computer that will pull all of the data from it, including files located in 'another launcher'.

Having multiple launchers will not hide the data.

Then they will install some kind of zero day root kit that can only be wiped with a new ROM.

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22 hours ago, uncommon said:

Then they will install some kind of zero day root kit that can only be wiped with a new ROM.

Who will do what, in what country, where??

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