Skepchick Quickies 7.3


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. Long ago, I saw a Monty Python sketch involving a childrens’ host reading from a book of hopelessly unsuitable tales. I have always wondered what his incredulous “with a melon?!?!?” meant, and now I know. Thank you, Skepchick.

  2. I guess I’ll wipe my laptop before I leave Lithuania. What a load of shit. I’m sorry to say that several things I saw at the KGB museum yesterday reminded me of the US and this is just one more example of a country going into the toilet. Sigh. Maybe I won’t come back.

  3. So, if I bring a laptop with confidential documents pertaining to my employer or clients, then those documents can be searched or copied at the whim of boarder security, exposing my boss and all our clients to DHS’s voyeuristic tendencies.

    But I could take a recently reformatted laptop with absolutely nothing on it but the operating system across the boarder. Then, once I’m in the US, I can connect it to the net, log into my FTP server, and download anything I want without customs even caring. Riiiiiiight. That’s secure.

  4. Yes, you could make an image of your hard disk, perhaps simply put it on DVD (or maybe an FTP server after all to ensure you carry nothing on you) reformat the laptop, and upon arrival, reinstall the image and everything is back just the way it was before you left.

    I wonder how likely it is border security would take the time to investigate your DVDs as well. Especially if they contain files that cannot be read without the proper software. Or maybe because they do?

  5. Hhm, it is pretty easy to create encrypted images and throw them on a thumb drive. With a MAc, the software is built-in. That’s how I store all my porn. :-)

  6. So far I felt safe from collective insanity* called “War on Terror”, as it wasn’t really an issue in my country, but it seems, that the US lobbyists are about to find ways to private data of Europeans. So, Writerdd, it might be time to find another country :(

    * I do not support terrorism. I think the measures that were taken against it are out of proportion and really ineffective. And they are definitely a threat to personal privacy.

  7. Get a thumb-drive.

    Load truecrypt on it.

    Then load the Portable Apps version of Firefox into the Encrypted drive.

    You can also store other important docs on the truecrypt drive.

    Only use the microsoft browser on your laptop’s hard drive for security updates and the like.

    Laugh at the TSA security Theatre clowns when they try to nose into your files and fail.

  8. It would be cheaper to ship your hard drive than the whole computer.

    Another option is an encrypted virtual machine for web browsing, e-mail etc. I mean, just encrypt it before you leave for the airport.

    There are a ton of options with external drives and/or encryption.

  9. I probably won’t do anything. I just think the whole idea sucks. On future trips I will definitely encrypt stuff just to be a prick.

    Of course now that I’ve posted this, I’m probably on some watch list.

  10. Interesting, Jsug, that is disturbing. I would have thought the 5th amendment protected against that.

    People are always ready to throw out civil liberties when they “know” its for a good reason (e.g., catching child pornographers and terrorists). And as tempting as it may be in those cases, where does it end? Having liberties means that everyone has them. If we are allowed to pick and choose who has them and when they have them, they are in danger of disappearing, IMO.

    I suppose one way to get around this is encrypt something with a key you do not have the password to, but someone in another country you trust has that password. Then get it when you get home. They other person has to be in a country where the US cannot coerce them into revealing the password. Then you really could not give it up.

  11. I don’ t think the case has been decided for sure yet. One judge ruled that it was covered by the 5th amendment, but the prosecution appealed. I haven’t been tracking the case that closely. It’s related to the above case, though, because his computer was searched at the border and they found incriminating files in his browser cache, which gave them reasonable suspicion to search the rest of his computer.

  12. As to the Wal-Borne link… I was in Walgreens about a month ago to try to find eye drops that would relieve any of the symptoms of pink eye. While browsing through the eye-drop section, I noticed a bottle of medication that was specifically labeled as being for pink eye, so I turn over the box and notice the 6x / 12x that I recognized from homeopathy (thanks SGU!)

    Frustrated, I went to the pharmacist to ask if she could recommend anything for pink eye. She looks me dead in the face and recommends the homeopathic treatment. This wasn’t a pharmacy tech, it was an actual pharmacist. Now I fill my prescriptions at Bartell.

    If anyone has suggestions about how would be the most effective way to deal with such situations, I would really appreciate it. I could have handled the situation more effectively had I not started yelling at the pharmacist.

  13. writerdd

    What if I FedEx my computer home instead of taking in on the plane?


    It would be cheaper to ship your hard drive than the whole computer.

    I thought the purpose was to get your data to your destination without border security sneaking a peek?

    It seems to me like FedEx-ing your hard drive (unless it’s solid-state memory) has a high risk of failing the first requirement (i.e. getting your data there, and preferably in a retrievable state).

    Better mail your disk-image backup DVD or something ;)

    Also, when you haven’t got your computer with you on the plane, you deprive yourself of the choice to watch something other than the in-flight movie.

    Regarding handing over the password to your encrypted files, the lawyer does equate it to handing over the combination to a safe. And it seems to me like a warrant demanding to see what’s inside your safe (or your encrypted drive) should grant you access. If you don’t comply, you’re obstructing justice.

    Since airport security has no warrants, they can’t make you give up the password. And they can only search what they can see.

  14. All this talk of taking computers through airports makes me think of the first time my partner and I flew after 9/11. He forgot to take his laptop out of his bag, meaning they took it aside for extra screening. Well, when the agent was swabbing it to test for explosives residue, he couldn’t even figure out how to *open* the laptop.

  15. Just a quick funny, and ironic story.
    Last summer my girlfriend and I went to upstate New York from Kingston, Ont. After we got off the ferry and waited our turn for our car to get to the customs agent, I got out of the car and took a picture of the “Welcome to the United States” sign.

    We were detained.

    Not for long mind you….about 45 minutes. After they searched our car, they happily sent us on our way. When we got to Sackett’s Harbour, NY for lunch, we had discovered that the customs agent had deleted the picture of the welcome sign.

    So friendly.

  16. Civil liberties are a thing of the past. Warrantless wiretaps, the government able to monitor your internet use by bullying ISP’s and search engine sites, revocation of habeas corpus… it’s all scary stuff. Now add to that list full access to your laptop (granted, under certain circumstances) – it makes me sick . I thought these people swore to uphold and defend the constitution, not find ways around it. Well I guess we can thank the USA PATRIOT Act (all caps because, remember, it’s and acronym!), but please don’t mistake me for a black helicopter nutter. I just find it ironic that the land of the free is more like the land of the free-ish, and sliding further away.

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