A while back, the most intrusive experiences for travelers involved having to go through a pat down or the standard luggage check. Today, border control agents have taken to searching phones, tablets and even laptops for anything they can find. Complying with such requests grants the agents access to privileged or confidential work information, as well as personal details like social media accounts, contacts, emails, and documents.
Data privacy laws at these checkpoints are not clear and border officers are taking advantage of the gray areas by making even forensic copies of your data. If this is a concern for you or your business, here are tips that will be useful. Most of the suggestions below will help create an added data security layer in various situations you may encounter.
Turn Your Device Off
The easiest step to implement involves turning off all your devices before you even get to the border. For starters, the legal bar for officers asking you to turn on your device that’s off than simply waking one up from sleep mode is higher – an important distinction when it involves certain scenarios. Second, if you have encrypted data on your laptop, some encryption systems work better when the device is off.
Powering down your encrypted laptop will not help in case of a request you power on and log into your device. However, the next steps below will help in such scenarios too.
Activate a Passcode
Always ensure that your device requires a passcode, and it should be required by default every time you power on your laptop or wake it from sleep mode. If you have disabled this feature on startup, re-enable it. The next step is ensuring that your laptop requires the password every time it wakes from sleep.
If your laptop has biometric – iris or fingerprint scan – authentication via Windows Hello, consider turning it off before traveling. One of the strange legal gray areas involve scenarios where you will be required to unlock your device with biometric authentication, even though you are not required to reveal your password.
It’s also a great idea to turn off Cortana when the device is locked. Since the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you will find that Cortana is activated on lock screen, no matter what your settings were previously. You can find the option under Settings, and then de-select “Use Cortana when device is locked.”
Clean Browser Cache
Whenever you use a browser to visit a website for the first time, it stores some information from the website in temporary files in the cache memory. When you visit the same site again, the browser loads it from the cache instead of downloading it again, improving your browsing experience. However, caching files also means that your browsing history is still available for anybody who cares to look.
Cleaning your browser cache means that it will improve its performance and speed; and while a browser is supposed to look up a recently cached copy of a website, it sometimes loads an older stored page instead. The cache can also store your private data required by some sites, making it possible for viruses, malware and adware to collect the information for unscrupulous purposes.
Encrypt Some or All Your Data
This security step will protect you from having information taken and used in case your laptop is stolen, and it protects the data collected from your business system’s performance tuning in SQL applications, for example, from being easily copied as you cross the border. For true secure encryption confidence, use third-party options, but the Windows built-in BitLocker is sufficient to protect your data from most common attempts.
These tips are designed to inform you and empower you to protect those areas that you are not required to share, that some people might unknowingly or knowingly encroach upon. So use them as information or tools according to your needs.