Security When You Travel Through Customs

As if flying wasn’t stressful enough, laptop bans in airplane cabins and the possibility of having data on your devices searched create even more frustration for those traveling internationally this summer. Currently, the laptop ban is in effect for travel to the U.S. from 10 Middle East airports; there has been discussion about expanding the ban to all European travel.

Even now in some domestic airports, passengers are asked to remove all electronics from carry-on luggage and place them in bins separate from other personal items. Anecdotally, on a recent flight, I was asked to turn on my phone for TSA before I left the security area.

This is an inconvenience for all travelers, but especially for business travelers who may intend to work on their laptops during long flights and have sensitive data stored on the devices that must be checked. It can also create security risks.

What if you must check your laptop and it is stolen or gets pulled for an inspection? What if you are pulled aside and asked to hand over your devices and passwords to allow access? How can you comply with the government while keeping your company from suffering a potential data breach?

Understand that, even though you may not like it, government agencies have the right to search your belongings on public transportation, and it’s been the case for a while, according to Chris Roberts, chief security architect at Acalvio, a Santa Clara, California-based provider of advanced threat detection and defense solutions.

“We’ve all seen the stickers and the warning signs that basically state you are in an environment where anything you have can be searched,” Roberts said. “This does apply to your electronics, which are typically considered closed containers – hence, they can be ‘opened.'”

This means airport security can ask you to turn on your device and for login information. They can also copy files and confiscate the device if warranted. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, they searched the electronic devices of 14,993 arriving international travelers in the first six months of 2017. The Fourth Amendment won’t protect you either.