This faded from the mainstream news pretty quick, but I thought it was important enough to mention again.
Back in 2008, an appeals court held up the legality of searching and impounding laptops at airports. Wired and other major websites reported on this, and even the EFF posted an article about it.
Not content with just the old “just open the lid and make sure it’s not a bomb” procedure of the last decade, the hillbilly idiots working at most airports now get to keep and search everything on your laptop any time they feel like it.
Let me say that again. Keep. And search. Everything.
Every email. Every website in your cache file. Every document you have written. Every image your friends have sent you. Every PDF. Every ad that displayed on your computer screen while you were web browsing. Every email you have sent. Every inappropriate joke sent from your co-workers. Every password you have saved.
Are you comfortable with a full audit of your laptop? Of having a complete stranger who thinks they themselves are the law go through your entire personal life as they see fit?
I know I’m not. Not because I have committed any crime or have anything to hide, but because it’s absolutely none of their damn business what I do. And since they can not and will not offer any guarantee my information will remain safely in their possession at all times, who is to say my personal information won’t eventually wind up in criminally unscrupulous hands?
To get around this, I made a secure remote-access system to take on the road with me. You can make the same thing so you can remote control your work (or home) machine securely, and without any technical hassle. The best part is that it will be 100% expendable.
It’s surprisingly easy to do.
All you will need is…
* A machine (PC or Mac) at work (or home) that’s always connected to the internet through Cable, DSL, or satellite.
* A cheap laptop with built in wifi from Ebay or a local pawn shop.
Step one is to get a cheap laptop. Anything that runs XP (or Vista) and has built in WiFi should be fine. Once you get it, clean out any files it may still have on it. If the laptop came with the original factory restore CD/DVD, go ahead and use them to erase and restore the laptop to its’ original configuration. Then follow the directions in this previous post to scrub the laptop’s free space.
After scrubbing the laptop, put a few files on the laptop you wouldn’t mind your worst enemy seeing. A PDF of a popular website. A grocery list. A to do list. A game or puzzle you have. Maybe even install a copy of Open Office (It’s an open source (free) copy of Microsoft Office). You want just a few things on there to make it look like you were really using this laptop.
Step two is to set up your work (or home) machine so that the laptop can access it from remote. I’ve been using logmein.com for about a year now, and their free service is outstanding, so I’ll use them in this example.
Go to logmein.com on the work (or home) machine you want to access from remote and click on the CREATE AN ACCOUNT link. From the SELECT PRODUCT GROUP, choose the LOGMEIN ACCESS, MANAGEMENT AND NETWORKING option. From there, choose the FREE package and complete their signup procedure.
Once you have signed up for their free service, it should take you to a page to set up your work (or home) machine. Follow their instructions to get the service up and running on your machine.
The last step is to go to the secure.logmein.com website from the laptop. This time, you just need to sign in with the credentials you used on the work (or home) machine. There’s nothing to install this time. VERY VERY IMPORTANT PART: When you sign in, if the web browser on the laptop asks if you want it to remember the password for logmein.com, say NO.
After you sign in on the laptop, you will see under MY COMPUTERS the home machine you just installed their software on. Click the REMOTE CONTROL icon, and in a few moments you should see your work (or home) machine appear in the laptop’s screen.
That’s all there is to it.
You can now work through your laptop just like you were sitting directly in front of your work (or home) machine from any available wifi connection.
When you are ready to travel, just leave your work (or home) machine powered on. Logmein.com will automatically do all the technical work in the background. All you need to do to get back to your home machine is to go to logmein.com from your laptop or any public wifi spot that has free internet access.
Just remember, that laptop’s middle name is “gone”. Don’t download or save anything on there. Don’t even surf the internet on it.
In the worst case, if that laptop does get impounded, they can’t access your home PC because they don’t know your password to logmein.com. And it looks like that laptop was the real deal because of the files you put on there earlier. But there’s no history in the web browsers, no emails to read, and nothing for them to tie you up with.