Photos and laptop crypto
The lead article/editorial in Bruce Schneier’s latest CryptoGram (http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram.html) points out the foolishness in warning people to beware of terrorists taking pictures. Millions of people take billions of pictures every year for legitimate or innocent reasons, and the major terrorist attacks have not involved terrorists walking around taking photographs of the targets. It doesn’t make sense to try and protect yourself by raising an alarm about an activity that is probably (*extremely* probably) not a threat.
Rather ironically, the second piece talks about the fact that your laptop may be searched when you fly to another country, and the advisability of laptop encryption. Leaving aside privacy and legality concerns, Schneier is for encryption.
Now, I don’t fly as much as some, but more than many. Since I’m a security researcher, I’ve got all kinds of materials on my laptop that would probably raise all kinds of flags. I’ve got files with “virus,” “malware,” “botnet,” and all kinds of other scary terms in the filenames. (I’ve got a rather extensive virus zoo in one directory.) Nobody at immigration has ever turned a hair at these filenames, since nobody at immigration has ever asked to look at my laptop. (Even the security screeners don’t ask me to turn it on as much as they used to, although they do swab it more.)
I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t encrypt materials on their laptops: it’s probably a good idea for all kinds of reasons. However, unless I’m very fortunate in my travels (and, from my perspective, I tend to have a lot more than my fair share of travel horror stories), the risk of having immigration scan your laptop is not one of them.