US Appeals Court Rules Border Agents Need Suspicion To Search Cellphones

Traditionally, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Border Patrol searches at the border didn’t require any suspicion on the theory that the government has a strong sovereign interest in regulating what enters and exits the country. But there is caselaw indicating that some border searches are so invasive that they do require some kind of suspicion. When the courts first applied the Fourth Amendment to border searches of computers, they held that searches of computers were ordinary searches that required no suspicion. As a result, border agents traditionally have been free to seize anyone’s cell phone and examine anything and everything stored within the phone with no reason required.

Now a new case before the Fourth Circuit has resulted in a ruling that at least some suspicion is required for a forensic search of a cell phone seized at the border.

Details may be found in an article by Orin Kerr in the Reason.com web site at http://reason.com/volokh/2018/05/09/important-fourth-circuit-ruling-on-cell.

Skype Alternatives

Skype is a telecommunications application software product that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, mobile devices, the Xbox One console, and smartwatches via the Internet and to regular telephones. It is one of the more popular methods of making voice calls (emulating telephones) over the Internet.

Microsoft purchased Skype from a privately-owned company in May 2011 for $8.5 billion. At the time, Skype was very popular, primarily because of its high audio quality and ease of use. Skype also was believed to be very secure at the time. While never officially stated, the advertising for Skype hinted that conversations between two Skype users (not traveling over public telephone lines) could not be wiretapped in its distributed, peer-to-peer network.

In the years since the acquisition, the ease of use in Skype has gone away, replaced by a very awkward user interface that is obviously designed for corporate use. The audio quality remains rather good. The original peer-to-peer network has been replaced with a more-or-less standard network that uses Microsoft servers to establish connections. The new network appears to be less secure than the previous peer-to-peer implementation.

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Michael Cohen had 16 Cell Phones Seized by the FBI

I’m jealous! Security experts often advise politicians, business executives, movie stars, professional athletes, and others to always have a second cell phone in addition to their primary phone. The second phone, sometimes called “a burner phone,” should receive little use. The owner is advised to use it only when he or she might want to hide something from law enforcement personnel or Border Patrol or perhaps is in danger of having news reporters or business competitors snooping through the person’s affairs. In fact, another good use might be to hide something from a curious spouse!

If the owner’s primary phone is later examined by someone else, the text messages, installed apps, and recent phone call information contained within the burner phone will not be found. Hiding a second phone that is used only for highly-sensitive purposes can be a big help when it comes to keeping secrets.

However, we may have a new record in burner phones! Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, reportedly had as many as 16 cell phones when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room!

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Russian Court Blocks Popular Messaging App Telegram in Still Another Privacy Row

First it was Zello, a walkie-talkie emulation app for smartphones. Now a Russian court has ordered that a popular text messaging app be blocked for the same reasons.

A Russian court on Friday ordered the blocking of a popular messaging app, Telegram, after it rejected to share its encryption data with authorities. The Moscow court on Friday ruled in favor of the Russian communications watchdog, which had demanded that Telegram be blocked in Russia until it hands over the keys to its encryption.

Russian authorities insist they need access to the encryption keys to investigate serious crimes, including terrorist attacks.

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Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock Apple iPhones

Law enforcement agencies across the country have purchased GrayKey, a relatively cheap tool for bypassing the encryption on iPhones, while the FBI pushes again for encryption backdoors, Motherboard reported (at http://bit.ly/2JJygfg) on Thursday. From the report:

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that law enforcement agencies are ‘increasingly unable to access’ evidence stored on encrypted devices.

Wray is not telling the whole truth.

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Without Encryption, It’s So Easy for Anyone to Eavesdrop on Your Phone Calls

An interesting article by Dennis Peng can be found in the Ooma Blog. The article talks mostly about hackers and governments listening to your cell phone and wired telephone calls. Amongst other things, the article states, “There is a backdoor built into every cell phone call. It can be accessed by intelligence agencies, hackers, or anyone with your telephone number.”

As to old-fashioned wired telephones, Peng writes, “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications,” reports the Washington Post.

The article may be found at: http://bit.ly/2I7DY8W.