[talk] Disposible computers

Edward Capriolo edlinuxguru at gmail.com
Tue Aug 8 19:22:44 EDT 2017

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017, Thomas Levine <_ at thomaslevine.com> wrote:

> George Rosamond writes:
> > It all really depends on the threat model.  That should be the starting
> > point, and not the technology and tools. What are you trying to protect
> > and from whom, and how high are the stakes? That determines everything,
> > including how much hassle you are willing to endure for a solution.
> Breaking and losing my stuff is mostly problematic because it is
> expensive and annoying to purchase and assemble it, and this is why I am
> switching to disposible computers. One threat is thus the untrustworthy
> airport staff working for airlines and airports who have strong
> incentives to give you wrong information. Such staff have multiple times:
> * confiscated my things that followed regulations
> * broken things inside my checked bags
> * given me wrong directions that cost me a lot of money
> The other threat, which I am more scared of even though it hasn't
> happened much to me, is that a government officer will create trouble
> for me because I am suspicious or because I have commited some crime
> that I in fact didn't commit.
> I recently tried checking a bag in hopes that it would make things easier.
> Of course, the airline representative gave me wrong directions about
> where to pick up the bag, so it took several days to get the bag, which
> was of course not easier. On the other hand, it turned out that
> attending a programming conference with only my purse and the clothes
> I was wearing was pretty okay. It really would have been nice to have
> a computer, but I realized that I can add a second change of clothes and
> a small disposible computer and still keep it to two purses.
> I have not really concerned myself with surveillance by governments
> because I think they have surely owned me by now if they wanted to.
> For example, I sometimes run software without fully reading its source
> code or installing it in a separate user, I usually don't cover my
> keyboard when I type passwords in public, and I have never checked for
> tampering with the electronics that I use.
> Also, I think that government surveillance organizations must quite
> incompetent at computing, just like technology companies, so I think I
> am inconveniencing them enough by simply using slightly unusual
> software. They'll own me if they try, but they'll have to exploit
> something just for weird people like me, and that would be a lot of
> custom work, not mass surveillance.
> It happens that my setup might do pretty well against mass surveillance
> for reasons other than obscurity. I can easily modify my setup such that
> I can travel with nothing, not even the knowledge of the password that
> I will need in order to rebuild everything.
> But I don't really like talking about government surveillance because
> I think the topic has become trendy enough that the discussion is
> usually mostly a marketing tool at this point.
> George Rosamond writes:
> > Then there's always the most effective approach: don't bring anything,
> > which I've read is even impervious to a full dd.
> This is a very bad idea because your lack of stuff would make you look
> very suspicious; even though they can't get your data, they can make
> trouble for you in different ways. If I take only the things I need with
> me, then I have few enough things I look like a drug smuggler. To avoid
> fitting this profile, I have thus been carrying extra, otherwise
> unnecessary, things in order to look less suspicous, and I have been
> doing this even before I decided to switch to disposible computers.
> It seems to help.
> So, I think you should bring at least some clothes and one suitcase or
> two backpacks. If you want to be safe, also bring a smartphone and a
> very normal laptop with Windows or Mac installed (and without any data
> that you care about). This would be very expensive and annoying for me
> as I presently own neither of these computers. More importantly, it
> would feel really stupid and wasteful to acquire two computers, clothes,
> and extra bags just in order to avoid troubles at airports; it's better
> just to avoid going to airports.
> So it's not just about the stuff; you need to fit your profile into
> something normal.
> One problem for me is that I don't have a good answer for when a police
> officer asks, "what do you do [for work]?" The true answers to this
> loaded question are that are that I don't work or that I am retired
> (in my 20s), and they never seem to like these answers. I am considering
> writing a book so I can say I am an author or getting a part-time
> normal-sounding job in order that I may give a normal answer.
> So I suggest that you also get a normal-sounding job.
> Another thing that makes me suspicious is that I am male and usually
> alone.  When going through checkpoints, especially customs, it is good
> for me to strike up a conversation with a similarly aged female so it
> looks like we are a couple traveling together.
> Part of the convenience of having only two purses is that it will become
> more practical to walk instead of flying, so I will probably do that
> more often instead. And even though regulations are pretty scary for
> other modes of transit, I think they're the worst in air travel, so
> I will probably take a boat for the next inter-continental trip.
> Hmm I have gotten far off the original tangent of disposible computers.
> I will some day write up my recommendations for safe air travel, but
> note for now that bringing nothing with you is a bad idea.
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A few of my buddies travled to China for a wedding. Devices can be
inspected/confiscated etc. At the time, the company we worked at had
'media' in the name. Even though it was an adtech company they believed
they received extra scrutiny because the government believed they were
affiliated with a news organization.

I personally would not bring a device with me outside the us that had
personal information or that of my company.

Sorry this was sent from mobile. Will do less grammar and spell check than
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