Hard Drive For Border Crossings: Will Self-Destruct If Connected To An Unknown Host

from the well-there's-an-idea dept

We've discussed a few times how Homeland Security has aggressively (and successfully) claimed the right to search laptop harddrives at the border without probable cause (sometimes without any known cause). The response from some has been to now encrypt your drive, but it appears that technologists are trying to offer up a variety of other solutions. Dark Helmet points us to the news that Toshiba is now offering a hard drive that can delete itself if it's connected to an "unknown host." It can also take less extreme measures, including just ramping up the authentication needed. While being pitched as useful for governments, it seems like it can be useful to protect against governments as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:38pm

    And so begins the check for backdoors.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Floyd (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:43pm

    Meanwhile, we can listen to Congressmen grandstand about how Facebook and Google don't protect our privacy, and how they need to squander tax dollars on investigating their privacy policies.

    "Pay no mind to the man behind the curtain [who is searching through your hard drive without probable cause]! Services to which you willingly gave information about yourself may actually be utilizing that information!!!"

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 12:04am

    Re:

    Politicians must always have something that needs to be "fixed", otherwise, what will they grandstand over?

     

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  4.  
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    Chargone (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 12:20am

    Re: Re:

    clearly they would have to sit in their grandstands and simply watch the game instead of annoying the rest of the audience :P

     

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  5.  
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    Qûr Tharkasdóttir (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 3:44am

    Attracting attention

    Keep in mind that as useful as they may be, such installments will just as easily attract unwanted attention to your little person. In other words, from the viewpoint of the warped minds of certain people, why would you want to encrypt your stuff if you're not guilty to begin with? Then you risk getting guantanamoed simply because you refuse to be cooperative and tell "them" your password. I believe you'd be even worse off if your harddisk had been "self-destructed" and you weren't even able to provide any evidence about its contents. On my last trip to the US, I chose not to bring my laptop and put an inactive and cleaned-up SIM in my cell phone. Webmail is accessible from anywhere, and essential files can be uploaded to a server somewhere.

     

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  6.  
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    AJ, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 3:59am

    Re: Attracting attention

    I think that's the point. The only thing these rules are doing is making it harder for the innocent folks. If your a bad guy, and you know there is even a "chance" your drive may get a good looking at, your just going to upload the files to the internet and leave your drive at home...

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 4:07am

    Re:

    But they already do cavity searches!

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 4:38am

    This is a poor, expensive, and unreliable solution

    You're better off with TrueCrypt and a plausible denial volume. It's free, open-source, and extensively peer-reviewed. Proprietary solutions like this will always be backdoored by governments.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 5:29am

    Re:

    There's no search. These drives are built for the government and thus have built in backdoors. Toshiba and the US Ministry of Truth are probably working together on this.

     

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  10.  
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    Nick Burns (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 5:48am

    Ship your power ahead

    Here's an idea... ship your laptop battery and power cord ahead of time and still carry your laptop with you. No power, no searching. ;)

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous a-hole, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 5:59am

    Re: Ship your power ahead

    Right, because border control would never take an axe to your laptop to get the drive out.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 6:44am

    Re: Ship your power ahead

    no searching 'at the border'. They will however nicely confiscate your computer and you'll get it back in a few months.

    If you're worried about the hard drive, ship the *hard drive*, not unrelated pieces.

     

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  13.  
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    Danny, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 7:02am

    I can hear them asking already...

    "You don't have anything to worry about if you haven't got anything bad on it right?"

    "Why are you being so secretive?"

    "For all the trouble you're going through to protect your hard drive you must have something on it you don't want us to see." (This one requires the presumption that "something you on it you don't want us to see" only means illegal stuff. So your company documents, sexy pics of your spouse, and your copy of Hello Kitty Funtime Island, are just as damning as having bomb scematics.)

    But on a lighter note if self destructing meant this thing actually blew up (after connected to said unknown host) I think it would be pretty funny. However it will not be funny when you go to prison for destroying federal property (which I bet carries a bigger punishment than having actual bomb scematics on your laptop).

     

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  14.  
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    Michael, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 7:14am

    Re: This is a poor, expensive, and unreliable solution

    Yup, a large random chunk of garbage file is all they would find. My favorite program.

     

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  15.  
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    abc gum, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 8:13am

    Good morning Mr. Phelps. ...

    Your mission Jim, should you decide to accept it ....

    As always, should you or any of your I.M. Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

     

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  16.  
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    Rekrul, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 8:51am

    Re: I can hear them asking already...

    But on a lighter note if self destructing meant this thing actually blew up (after connected to said unknown host) I think it would be pretty funny.

    How about this instead of explosives; Carry a dead laptop with you with a drive that's been specially modified to connect the power lines to all the data lines. I'm no expert, but I doubt that any system they plugged it into would be too healthy after they flipped the switch. :)

     

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  17.  
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    Joseph, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 7:40pm

    Re: Re: Ship your power ahead

    How about leaving your data at home?

    travel with a slim computer and access your data back home on your "real" computer via GoToMyPC or similar service.

    Communication is safely encrypted.

    If you need a file locally you can use the file transfer utility.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 8:49pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The thing is, we're stuck. Only the naive would think we don't need some level of government bureaucracy to keep things working.

    And yet, the personality types able to make it into and function at those bureaucratic levels (defects, socio-paths, what have you) are what we keep choosing.

    I think there is something fundamental in our human nature, that expresses itself in our tribal based culture and gives us this result.

    Think about it. Through all recorded history, in every single culture, we see the same organizational problems.

     

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  19.  
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    Floyd (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Dude, we really don't need government bureaucracy. We really don't. Only the naive would think we do.

    How does bureaucracy help anything? Security we need, bureaucracy we don't- especially not at the cost of our freedoms.

     

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  20.  
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    Cipher-0, Apr 23rd, 2011 @ 8:39am

    Re: I can hear them asking already...

    "For all the trouble you're going through to protect your hard drive you must have something on it you don't want us to see."

    Fortunately, I have a ready answer for that.

    "As you can see from my passport I am a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Under Massachusetts General Law 93 sections A through H as well as Massachusetts regulation 201 CMR 17 all laptop storage and all portable storage used in business that potentially contains "personally identifiable information" must be encrypted. Further, under those laws, it is against both those regulations and laws for me to disclose the passwords to a third party."

    Effective? Who knows, but doesn't make it less true.

     

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  21.  
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    Qûr Tharkasdóttir (profile), Apr 23rd, 2011 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: I can hear them asking already...

    Doubtful. In case you haven't noticed, and at this point in time please turn your eyes towards Libya if you haven't, "they" do pretty much what they please regardless of whatever quaint statutes you believe in.

     

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  22.  
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    Qûr Tharkasdóttir (profile), Apr 23rd, 2011 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: I can hear them asking already...

    If I do have my statistical probabilities straight, it's still quite a bit of hassle in light of the likeliness that YOU will be the one whose laptop gets searched. And, commentary to others, it's extremely doubtful that the manpower at a border crossing either has the time or the competence at their disposal to scan a laptop on the spot. Meaning that your laptop will get confiscated anyway, temporarily at least.

     

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  23.  
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    bugmenot (profile), Apr 23rd, 2011 @ 5:52pm

    Never has been

    There never has been probable cause required when entering any country. The recent case was if they could take it to another location for a search. Usually searches have to be done right there. General advice for all international travel is don't take contraband with you.

     

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  24.  
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    Dustin, Apr 24th, 2011 @ 8:31pm

    Re: Never has been

    Or, in this case, don't take anything you value past a border guard.

    My personal information (i.e. my laptop, journals, diary, anything) are my business and nobody elses. The fact that the government can use threat of force to deprive me of my right to privacy under the guise of border security makes me do two things: travel out over the border less often, and ensure I never travel with anything.

    I travel with my tickets and my bank card. Everything else either gets bought on location or shipped.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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