Beware the Shoulder Surfers
In Travel Safety Part-2, we discussed the risks of traveling with your personal phones and other electronics, driver’s licenses, passports, and health insurance. We are now at the point of getting on the plane, kicking back, and getting some uncomfortable sleep on your long journey. Then, arriving to your destination and effectively dealing with Immigrations & Customs officials.
Most people traveling alone keep to themselves. They watch movies, read, sleep, or work on their laptops to finish up that presentation they are about to give once they reach their destination. If traveling with a companion, you may talk about what’s going on in your life or business discussions concerning that meeting you are traveling to attend. The one thing I notice while traveling is that most people feel they are in a comfortable safe environment and forget all about their security posture.
There MAY be persons around you that specialize in looking over your shoulder and listening to your conversations. Let’s say you need to work on that presentation or spreadsheet for your company. Laptop is out. You are concentrating on the material. Nothing around you exists anymore. However, Charlie the Corporate Spy is sitting next to you. He sees the company you work for. He is super interested in the briefing you are working on titled “The Latest Artificial Intelligence Breakthrough.” Your proprietary information is leaking out. Charlie has already introduced himself when you guys sat down, so he knows your name. Two actions can happen at this point. ONE, Charlie is able to read the content and steal your proprietary company information. TWO, Charlie can social engineer his way into your life. Identify your full name, where you live, how long you worked for your company, etc… This may provide him another means to gain additional insight into the work you are doing for your company.
SOLUTION: Purchase a screen protector privacy filter for your laptop, which only costs between $20 and $40. Take one of those airline thin blankets and place it over your head and laptop. You may think this is weird, but would you rather be a little weird or lose proprietary information to a competitor? Don’t discuss personal or business information that could be used by Charlie to gather Personal Identifiable Information (PII) on you or proprietary/sensitive information on your company’s business. Keep your conversations bland (weather, sports, fishing, etc…).
Do Not Cause a Scene
Now it is about time to land at your destination. You probably have your carry-on bag either in the overhead storage compartment or beneath your feet. Take a couple of minutes and conduct an inventory of your belongs. If something is missing from your luggage or even possibly been added to your luggage, you can take immediate action with the aircrew. Over the past few years, theft while in transit has significantly increased. You may have slept for a few hours and did not realize Terry the Thief had taken a few items from your luggage in the overhead bin. Or worse, Fred the Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS) operative has placed something in your luggage that will give the Immigration & Customs agents a solid reason to detain and question you upon your arrival.
You landed. Now proceed to the cattle line and wait your turn to see the Immigration Officer. Remember from Part-2 of this series, YOU NO LONGER HAVE THE RIGHTS OF AN AMERICAN. Do not cause a scene. A positive and professional demeanor will keep you out of trouble. This means when someone else in front of you or behind you are being obnoxious and rude, don’t feel like it is your place to correct their public behavior. Don’t vocalize your anger at how long you have stood in line. Stand there. Mind your business. Keep a quiet professional demeanor. Keep your passport stored away until you are about ready to approach the Immigration Officer. Taking these actions will help keep everyone around you from knowing you are an American, and specifically an American that is pissed off for having to stand in line so long.
There is usually a certain spot you should remain at until the Immigration Officer calls you to their desk. At this point, have your passport ready. Do not approach the desk until the officer summons you. Hand the passport to the officer. Do not toss it on their desk. You want to remain respectful and give the officer no reason to temporarily detain you or ask you any more questions than necessary.
Maintain Your Composure
At this point, one of two things will happen. You will either receive an entry stamp in your passport and proceed to baggage claim, or you will be asked to go with another officer for additional questioning. You want the former, not the latter.
If you are directed to follow another Immigration Officer for additional questioning. Do not panic! There could be 100 different reasons why they want to have a conversation with you. You have done nothing wrong, so answer their questions with RESPECT. Understand they are in charge and can ask you anything they wish. That means birthdate, married/single, sexual orientation, religious preference, physical search, luggage search, and even yell and scream at you. Maintain your composure. Always maintain respect. Your goal is to get out of there as soon as possible so that you may continue your journey in the country.
Finally, it is time to gather your luggage from the carousel and get out of the airport.
The lessons in this blog post are: 1) Operational Security at all times. 2) Maintain a positive and professional demeanor. 3) ALWAYS maintain respect with foreign government officials. They don’t have to let you in their country. They can detain you for as long as they wish. They don’t have to let you call anyone.
Our last blog in this series will cover Extortion, Hotel stays, and Elicitation. Please come back and learn some final tips and tricks that will keep you safe during your overseas travels.