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Travelling In Modern Day China Requires Cold War-Era Secret Agent Skills

If Kenneth G. Lieberthal were anything but a China expert at the Brookings institution, his travelling-in-China security procedures would read like the product of a paranoid mind that watched too many spy movies as a kid.

He leaves his mobile phone and laptop at home and instead brings “loaner” devices, which he erases before he leaves the United States and wipes clean the minute he returns. In China, he disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, never lets his phone out of his sight and, in meetings, not only turns off his phone but also removes the battery, for fear his microphone could be turned on remotely. He connects to the Internet only through an encrypted, password-protected channel, and copies and pastes his password from a USB thumb drive. He never types in a password directly, because, he said, “the Chinese are very good at installing key-logging software on your laptop.”

Talk about overkill, right? Well he’s not alone. The New York Times reports that these seemingly paranoid precautions are par for the course for just about anyone with valuable information including government officials, researchers and even normal businessmen who do business in China.

But what about the rest of us? I may not have any valuable state secrets or research that needs protecting but that doesn’t mean I want the Chinese government snooping on my internetting when I visit my grandparents (especially when the consequences can be so severe). In the past, I’ve relied on a combination of VPNs, TOR and password-protecting everything I can, but now it sounds like even that isn’t enough. Or maybe it’s totally overkill given my general unimportance in the grand scheme of things. Dear readers, I ask you, how much security is enough when it comes to the average person on holidays? [NY Times]

Image: Shutterstock/Rynio Productions


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