Feature Request: Peace of mind when crossing borders

The upshot of that entire page is that they (browsers) all suck.

So I give them nothing. Every browser on my system runs in a disposable. As far as Firefux can tell I am dozens of new users who’ve never been anywhere before.

Agreed. Although some suck less than others, whatever sucks the least is preforable. Would like to see more happen with https://servo.org/

Amazing link! Thanks for sharing.

Be careful, I read couple of days ago somewhere regarding tracking by addons you use, some kind of fingerprinting, I don’t remember. I saved it somewhere, but can’t find it atm.

Please note that the threat model is different than the one described by Emily in the OP. When crossing the border you aren’t dealing with a computer forensics team; you’re dealing with an officer that doesn’t know that much about computers. That’s when plausible deniability works. It’s plausible or not depending on the threat model.

I believe you can accomplish your goal by installing Qubes OS with detached headers in a USB drive. You can then cross the border without the USB drive.

(Unfortunately, I tried the steps in the post and they didn’t work for me; maybe they’re outdated. If you get it to work, please write a post.)

My understanding is that, without the LUKS headers, the data in the laptop looks like random garbage. If asked you can say the laptop can’t be booted (true).

After crossing the border you can get a copy of the LUKS headers from a friend, Nextcloud, OnionShare, snail mail, etc.

They’re likely to wonder why you brought a brick laptop with you though. True it may be but they’ll think something is “off” and they’ll start digging until they figure it out.

I had my car searched at a non-dictatorial border crossing once because the customs officer thought something was “off” about me. After he found nothing and I asked he explained what was “off” about me and I had a (true) explanation for it. Completely innocent but it tripped his BS meter and I got held up for an hour.

I’m sure a brick computer that you clearly knew in advance couldn’t be booted would raise an eyebrow you don’t want raised.

HEADS OTP for locking BIOS, AEM, and Locking LUKS with FIDO are a few of the best methods I have found for protecting a computer if you cannot safe guard against physical access.


However, there is not much you can do about duress if you are in a totalitarian state or dystopian nightmare. US covert ops have emf mind wipe if captured but that is basically life-giving. You will not be the same person. Your personality will have died so maybe if only personal secrets were involved, you might as well duress. But the duress might as well kill you so a good rule of thumb is never talk no matter what they do to you.

Neural network OTP you are not in control of so if captured not sent? Network security possibilities of the future. . .

It should be somehow priority.
The QubeOS is like red flag. Something complicated and weird. Of course the line officers will not look in it, they just see something weird and send you to other officer so you wait some hours somebody trying to figure out it

It would be simplify many things to have other than qubeOS default os.

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Not all of us have QubeOS for some James Bond staff. I am identify myself as QubeOS enthusiast and I like many qubeOS features. I appreciate privacy levels which QubeOS has. I just like I can organize myself very well with QubeOS. At the end I like to show off with it and pretend “I am cool”.
Unfortunately my grandmas lives in the country where border control looks for “enemies” and I like to visit them.

I don’t give myself higher importance when I land in Brussels airport definitely. I can just suggest you to try to cross Tajikistan-Uzbekistan border.


Yes. In many cases a “threat model” is those recreational hackers in a basement, crooks like ransomware pukes, and of course all those sites that love to mine data and make money selling obtrusive ads. Not a government.

Qubes works well for that, too.

I just returned from a few days in Russia. I’ve been many times but the first time since the war started. It was very hostile at customs. I had my GrapheneOS phone taken off me, forced to unlock and let them take IMEIs. We were held for 3.5 hrs whilst they checked all details. I wouldn’t of felt comfortable with my laptop and QubesOS even if it was hidden in some way.


Well, while this is totally expected for me in a war times (and you saying been there many times implicating no problems before the war), this is actually “for ages” common practice in a “free world”.

I’m sorry about your experience at the border, but how is this relevant to the topic at hand?

You do not always have a choice whether to take a laptop with Qubes with you or not. The OP is asking for plausible deniability, i.e., it should be impossible to prove that you have certain data on it, even if they take a full copy of your hard drive. To me, your story proves once again, that such feature is getting more and more relevant as time goes.

Sorry if i wasnt clear. I’m far from an expert in computers but i have travelled regularly to work in many parts of Russia and China. I often take devices with me; laptops, phones, tails on usb credit card. Ive used vpns to be able to use these properly.

My point was after what i went through in Russia i wouldn’t be comfortable relying on plausible deniability and wouldn’t even want to explain why i choose QubesOS or anything else which would have me detained longer.



  1. Make dual-boot with some usual operation system, like GNU/Linux or even Windows (less secure).
  2. Copy the first 1-10 GiB (let’s call it header) of Qubes OS LVM partition and replace if with Fat32/Exfat partition to make it look like an empty storage. Maybe, put a Movie or TV Show there. (Note: Do not use NTFS, it stores its data in the middle or partition and will corrupt LVM).
  3. The copied header should be additionally encrypted and either hidden using any other ways supporting plausible deniability or even moved online without storing on laptop to be downloaded after crossing the border.

I am skipping some technical details, about partition tables, EFI or grub partition, just follow the idea.

So this is not a problem of plausible deniability but of Qubes OS itself looking suspicious. Does it mean that plausible deniability on Qubes is irrelevant? I don’t think so. (For Russia, maybe yes.)

The border control could also randomly copy traveller’s hard drives, without caring about anything else, depending on the country.

Why not travel with a freshly installed OS of your choice with no data on it. Once you arrive to your destination download your data from online data storage sites. When you leave your destination upload your data to an online storage site then delete and re-install a fresh OS of your choice. Deleting could include encrypting the whole drive which would overwrite any previous important data. If you need a phone buy a second hand phone or a new one according to your budget. The idea is you have 2 phones or more, a travel phone and a local phone. Travel phone would contain no information and every new destination would mean a factory reset. Again use online storage facilties to transfer data as needed.

Not always possible (also can be suspicious, depending on the size of your data).

Very suspicious. Same for laptop.

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Could be suspicious but just add some data. Add some browsing on your laptop. Add some contacts to your phone.

If your destination does not require you to bring a laptop/phone then leave them at home.