Dan Gillmor suggests various things you can do if the Trump administration decides to implement a plan where laptops are banned from carry on luggage on all flights and that may be extended to tablets and cameras as well. One of the things that needs to be overcome is the fact that as soon as your laptop leaves your possession, it can be damaged and its contents vulnerable to theft.
So what should you do in the event of wider ban on cabin electronics? I asked some security experts for advice. “There is no good advice,” says one of them, Bruce Schneier. “It’s just crazy. Truly crazy.”
But some options for travelers may a bit less bad than others.
Let’s start, first, with the assumption that the government won’t impose an outright ban of laptops and larger electronics on all flights — in carry-ons and checked luggage — to and from the United States. (If it did, the ban would almost certainly be extended to all domestic flights, as well.) That would be a recipe for havoc on an epic scale. So as long as electronics can still be stowed in checked luggage, which is more than bad enough, the priority will be to discourage tampering and mitigate the risks associated with theft.
He proceeds to provide various suggestions. Cory Doctorow suggests some other things that you can do to ensure that your laptop has not been tampered with.
Dan misses a couple tricks: first, you could use a flush-sitting USB drive as your bootable disk rather than a sticky-outie one that’s easy to knock out. Second, you could remove your hard-drive prior to takeoff and fly with it in your carry-on to prevent data-theft and give you a bootable option when you land, even if your laptop is smashed or stolen (just buy another machine and swap in the drive). This works very well with most modern GNU/Linuxes, which are graceful about handling being booted into a new hardware environment (I’ve done this while touring, after dumping a cup of coffee in my machine and then swapping over to a different model I was able to buy in a computer store).
For the very paranoid: remove your USB ports (or fill them with superglue). Put tamper-evident tape over the screws on your laptop after you remove your laptop (or, if you’ve got 15 minutes, paint over them with glitter nailpolish and take photos of the glitter patterns after it hardens, then compare again before you put your drive back into your machine).
Needless to say, all these are all a major pain to implement. For business travellers, I foresee a dramatic rise in online meetings and presentations to avoid flying, especially if there is a ban on laptops anywhere on a plane, including the hold.