Locking down laptops from the TSACustoms

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Thanks to the wisdom of Homeland Security and customs, travellers may now be asked to allow screeners access to your laptops when you fly. While this is pretty shitty for obvious reasons, CNET is offering some advice on how to stop the lads from finding all your homemade tentacle anime.

1. Before going on any international trip, back up all of your important and potentially embarrassing, incriminating, or troubling data. This includes any copyrighted content which you may not be able to prove you own.
2. Create an encrypted disk image/encrypted folder of that data. This can be done with Pretty Good Privacy, Truecrypt, or software built into many operating systems.
3. Remember the password. This is very important, as if you forget it, you lose all your data.
4. Upload the encrypted data to a reliable place on the Internet (or two). Personally, I use Amazon S3, which charges 15 cents per GB-month of storage plus 17 cents per GB of data transfer.
5. Wipe your laptop clean (do this properly, or the data may be accessible after the fact with forensics software), and install a fresh copy of your OS onto it.
6. Travel. You should have no problem at U.S. Customs (or in any other country) as you won’t have anything problematic on your computer.
7. At your hotel/office, fire up your Web browser and download the encrypted data file from Amazon’s servers.
8. Decrypt the data.

I’ve actually gotten to the point where most of my in-progress work is sitting in the cloud somewhere, but if that’s not the case uploading and encryption could be the answer.

OS X users can also add a little security through obscurity by hiding their user names at login:

1. Open System Preferences -> Accounts
2. Create a dummy user to populate the screen. Put up a picture of a kitten as the desktop and some photos in iPhone.
3. Click on the lock and click on Login Options.
4. Click “Display login window as: Name and password.”
5. Login as the dummy user when asked. The rest of your accounts should be nicely hidden and inaccessible except by customs agents with a background in OS X.

UPDATED – Fixed to reflect customs doing this, not TSA screeners.

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