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How to Keep Border Guards From Reading Your Laptop

How to secure your mobile devices

Computers aren't the only data storage devices you have to worry about at the border. Nowadays, it's possible to go without your laptop for a few days. But your mobile phone? Not so much.

Most phones contain contacts, emails, banking and credit card info from shopping apps, location-based data and tracking information, photos and more.

Despite this wealth of sensitive data, there are some challenges to secure storage on a mobile phone, challenges that don't exist with computers. For one, it's more difficult to truly delete files on a mobile phone.

If you're a customer of T-Mobile or AT&T, or any other carrier that uses the international Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard, you can buy a cheap phone and move your SIM card into it.

That way, you can leave your data-rich phone at home and people will still be able to contact you using your existing number.

If you put a passcode on an iPhone, the device will also encrypt its data using that passcode as the key, thus adding another layer of security.

If you have an Android smartphone you can use the "Encrypt Phone" feature to secure your data. There are also several apps that provide strong additional encryption, such as "SSE-Universal Encryption App" and "WhisperCore."

You can also use encrypted messaging services like Wickr and Silent Text that can securely delete messages soon after they're sent.

For an excellent comprehensive guide to the legal and practical considerations of crossing the U.S. border, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's PDF "Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices."

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