Tag Archives: US v. Arnold

Wed, May 28th, 2008 by Graves and Allen

Protect your confidential data.

For those of you that have not yet heard this, your data can no longer travel securely across the United States’ national borders in your physical possession.  The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in April 2008 that a computer was like luggage and border guards can search it to determine its content and the propriety of allowing it to cross the national borders.   United States v. Arnold

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.  The Arnold Court’s ruling held that the Fourth Amendment does not require even a showing of reasonable cause to justify such a search under the border crossing exception to the Fourth Amendment protections.

The Arnold court held that ”… reasonable suspicion is not needed for customs officials to search a laptop or other personal electronic storage devices at the border“.  That language, appearing at the end of the opinion has particular importance as it makes it clear that the opinion does not limit itself to laptop computers.  It includes all forms of ”personal electronic storage devices“.  Accordingly, external hard disks, DVD and CD ROM disks,  flash drives, media cards, digital cameras, cell phones and PDA’s (without limitation) would all come under this exception.  Accordingly, you may find it uncomfortable to travel carrying private or confidential information with you in any of those forms or formats.

So, what do you do?  Fortunately, you can still travel and use your data on the trip, you just cannot safely carry it with you when crossing any US international border.  How do you do this?  Simple, first thing, you back up your data and leave a copy safely stored in a secure location.  Second, encrypt your data using a competent encryption program.  Be sure to set a strong password to access the encrypted data.  A ”strong“ password contains at least six characters and uses both numbers and letters. An example of a strong password:  ‘j104m234a756”.  After you encrypt the data, upload it to an on line storage location, erase the data from your computer, pack it up and off you go.  You can access your data anywhere in the world that you have Internet access.  Enjoy your trip!

When you want to access the data, download it, unencrypt it and use it.  Before you travel again, re-encrypt it, upload it to your on line storage and erase it from your computer.

Copyright 2008, Jeffrey Allen.  All rights reserved.

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