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Zoli brings up an interesting point about USA search and seizure of electronic systems at the border: there is always a way around any restriction put in place. What makes this always interesting is that with the modern cloud computing environment, all you really need is a computer to act as your interface to the cloud, and store all the important stuff either on corporate sponsored systems or in Google or Zoho docs if you think your stuff even stands a remote chance of being confiscated or intercepted for any reason.
You can read the full disclosure on the new TSA policy here and if you want to read the press release you can read that here. The point of this though is not that this is anything new, we have dealt with this for the last 8 years at least. I am also not apologizing for the government, they do what they are going to do and there is little that the average person can do about it. Sure we can whine, but if you have data that you want to get across the border, this is one of the easiest things ever. Carry a net book or other truly cheap computer you do not care what happens to it, and store everything on the cloud. Once you have that, there is no data (but there are fragments of data, and in some cases full backups of your data stored off in cache as well under your personal settings in windows) that you do not have a back up of. If anything makes the case for using the cloud, it is any government’s right to intercept and poke around any electronic device. The USA is not unique; China, Britain, Iran, and most countries also have an idea of what kind of data can and cannot cross the border. The cloud makes physical search and seizure at the border irrelevant.
From the cloud computing side of this it is irrelevant what any government does or does not do, what they poke around or what they simply let slide through the border. All countries borders are porous, even North Korea’s border into China where thousands flee across annually. The USA border has tens of thousands of illegal aliens crossing monthly, a terrorist is not going to waltz through JFK, and bad folks are going to cross the border wherever and whenever they see an opportunity. The TSA is looking in the wrong direction, and their own statistics prove it.
Between Oct. 1, 2008, and Aug. 11, 2009, CBP encountered more than 221 million travelers at U.S. ports of entry. Approximately 1,000 laptop searches were performed in these instances—of those, just 46 were in-depth. Source: DHS
The revised and disclosed policy by the TSA is meaningless; there are already well established ways of getting around it. While it is nice to see the policy, and know what is going to trigger or not trigger a search and possible seizure, making sure the truly important information is already on company servers, or on your own server on the cloud is what you truly need to do at this point. If millions of travelers crossed the border, and only 1000 laptop searches were conducted, your chance of being stopped and searched are 1 in 221,000. You would have to watch most of the population of Seattle walk by to pick out the one person who looked interesting. While we are not at the level of searches that Zoli wrote about yet, in this case, the reality of TSA and border searches is inconsequential. While we are not at the wrap our disks in saran wrap and put your disk in a sandwich, we are at the point where data storage is easy, cloud based, and should be used. People should be using cloud computing, off line storage and disposable computing systems makes any border crossing not much to worry about for anyone, including terrorists. DHS/TSA get a computer with nothing on it, I keep my data, everyone is happy.
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(Cross-posted @ TechWag)