Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thwarting Homeland Security's Laptop Searches

The DHS has again stated that their agents can search any electronic device that can store information. This includes MP3 players, cameras, flash drives, and laptops.

You can read more about the decision to continue these patently unconstitutional searches in several recent news articles:

CBS News: Homeland Security Says Laptop Border Searches Will Continue

Los Angeles Times: Taking An International Trip? Scrub those hard drives!

There have been stories of laptops and other items being seized at the border, and later returned via mail to the owner. This practice gives the DHS time to clone the hard drives and flash drives to later dissect the data stored on them.

I have not seen any confirmed reports that this has occurred, but rumors about the activities of this current government have frequently proven to be accurate.

If you are forced to travel across the border with electronic items, there are several things you can do to protect yourself against potential data corruption and loss.

One, back up all data before departing.

Two, if while traveling you have access to the internet, transfer your data. E-mail yourself important files, or upload data to online storage sites. If you have a company intranet, utilize the shared drives on your network's servers to store critical information.

Three, have a spare hard drive with a virgin copy of your OS on it. Swap drives before returning stateside. FedEx your used drive to a coworker in your company. DO NOT SEND IT TO YOURSELF! I've heard rumors that this is a red flag and will immediately result in your package being detained by customs. Ship your drive after backing up important information via the Internet.

Four, use "whole disk encryption". I use personally use DriveCrypt from SecureStar.

How secure is DriveCrypt? How does 1344 Bit Military Strength disk encryption using cryptographic algorithms such as AES, Blowfish, Tea 16, Tea 32, Des, Triple Des, Misty 1 and Square sound to you?

If you want to go one step further, you can go for the DriveCrypt Plus Pack. It's FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards) approved.

To ensure there are no traces of deleted files, or of any temporary files (browsing history, etc) I use CyberScrub. This product allows you to designate areas for scrubbing and also allows you to select the level of file deletion security. You can go from a single pass quick wipe to 35 pass Gutmann.

Cyberscrub says:

"A maximum security (but slow) 35 pass sanitize method, based on Peter Gutmann's paper "Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory". The method is designed to erase data regardless of the disk raw encoding. It effectively removes the magnetic remnants from disk, preventing hardware recovery tools from restoring any data. NOTE: This method stops both software and hardware recovery tools."

These steps should help you to keep confidential information, confidential.


idahobob said...

Thanks for the info. We need all the computer security that we can get.


ErinAndBrad said...

Why u so smart fer Cat? LOL! Great post!