Thegrugq on stupid travel advice for devices

Echoing some things I said on the last thread on this sort of thing and customs.


Pretty much. Every job I’ve had for years I have had three operating principles:

  • If I can, don’t travel with personal electronics
  • Always travel with a company owned device, with contact info for their counsel
  • Be polite

Oh, and be a 6’2" caucasian middle aged man that can make buddy buddy banter with security folks. Thank FSM I have no privilege.


“I’d love to unlock this laptop once the head of my legal department says I can. I work on our security team and this contains privileged company information…” (and my porn collection!)


Yeah, and in about a new York second Counsel says, “yes”, then the feds can have our source code/.git plus keys. At that point, not my problem. Unless the detainers don’t have Mr. Pibb. Then, (Patrick swayze-esque) Roadhouse.


Ours have already promised not to just roll over.


See, that’s exactly why I ask. It is never a, “I understand, and to comply with a lawful order I must contact legal first”.

I have never had to deploy that strategy, but given the roles I have been conscripted------err, offered, I just travel a little different. Bit paranoid, and polite.


Never been a problem for me, but am not remotely brown and have global entry.

That has been my plan if challenged: I work in healthcare, and it could violate HIPAA and I could go to jail or lose my job. TalK to the company lawyer, get a warrant, or both.


So, honest question - even as a middle-class middle-aged white guy traveling domestically, I feel like it’s not safe to travel with anything important anymore. I can leave the computers at home so they don’t get smashed up by some power-crazed orangutans or what have you. But I’m going to need a cellphone. My thought was a cheap burner loaded with only the contacts I’ll need during the trip (no social media etc., I’ll just be offline until I get back).

Not hiding or smuggling anything, just trying to keep my own data and systems secure. If that’s ‘stupid, terrible, and dangerous’, then how should one go about maintaining security in a world where all major forms of transportation are manned by terrorists in government uniforms?


Well, traveling domestically isn’t the issue. It is going over international borders where customs comes into play. If you’re coming into the USA right now and you’re a citizen (and probably if you’re a green card holder), the general thinking is that they can’t stop you from entering the country, not indefinitely. They can hold you for questioning (and it is open ended how long they can get away with) but have no right to deny entry. If you refuse to unlock* a phone, they can confiscate it for “analysis” or whatnot and you may or may not see it (or trust it) ever again. Same with laptops. That said they can use your finger against your will to fingerprint unlock your phone (per a court decision until it is reversed) so stick to pin codes.

I am not a lawyer.

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