Bitcoin, while becoming more widely known and a little better understood among the general public, is still considered suspicious among rank and file security folk such as customs and airport agents. Security expert Matt Mitchell warns enthusiasts might want to cover up when it comes to stickers and other social advertisements announcing their crypto love.
Bitcoin Stickers Might Get You Heat
“Conferences, border crossing, airports, public places,” Tactical Tech’s director of digital safety, Matt Mitchell explained to Motherboard, “stickers will/can get you targeted for opposition research, industrial espionage, legal or investigative scrutiny.”
Enthusiastic Bitcoiners who travel know this all too well, and it has been going on for years in various forms. Indeed, back in 2014, well known ecosystem personality Davi Barker of Bitcoin Not Bombs, had a bizarre encounter with TSA agents in the United States. As luck would have it, he was wearing a Bitcoin Not Bombs hoodie, and also had merchandise related to crypto and various libertarian causes (he was on his way to a conference as an exhibitor).
After a very thorough pat down inspection and all his belongings rifled through, he was approached again but this time away from the TSA proper, and just before boarding his flight. Official looking people cornered him, and someone in an orange shirt began asking where he was headed and why. After giving these airport people vague answers, one of them suddenly asks, “‘What about Bitcoin?’ I was flabbergasted. This was above and beyond any scrutiny I had ever received from the TSA, and a little frightening that they were looking for Bitcoin. I said I didn’t understand the question. He continued, ‘We saw Bitcoin in your bag and need to check.’ I was incredulous, and asked, ‘Do you have a superior officer because I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.’ The blue shirt replied by repeating that they were ‘managers,’ but if I didn’t answer his questions he could call law enforcement and have me taken into custody. I asked, ‘Aren’t you law enforcement?’ and he replied, ‘No we’re with the TSA.’” Mr. Barker then asked, “‘What did the Bitcoin look like?’”
A traveling companion then explained to the agent bitcoin is not a physical thing. The agent wasn’t buying it for whatever reason, and the line of questioning went into whether Mr. Barker had more than $10,000 in bitcoin on him. Mr. Barker tried to explain that that is not how this works, and after a while the agents seemed to give up. Mr. Barker believes because he was not flying internationally is what ultimately saved him from even more scrutiny. However, he did contend, “If I wasn’t wearing the hoodie it probably wouldn’t have happened. “
Keep a Low Profile
Ask anyone in the space, and they’ll recall instances where they’ve been pulled aside, stared at, and not always in a bad way. Wearing cool shirts, having stickers on your stuff, is a great way to evangelize. People want to know about cryptocurrency, and so these little advertisements become conversation starters.
When travelling, however, “a laptop lid full of stickers also arguably provides something of a red flag to authorities or hackers who may want to access sensitive information stored on that computer, or otherwise cause the owner hassle,” Motherboard cautions. Veterans carefully pack away their affiliations in such instances or at the very most take ‘burner’ phones and cheaper devices with less information on them. This way, if for some reason they are confiscated, copied, compromised, the loss isn’t significant.
On a flight headed for a DEF CON, Mr. Mitchell noticed a media organization sticker, “This person had a Chromebook, I guess as a travel laptop. But it had a media sticker on it.” Even that, he seemed to imply was too much information, and could be an enticing target for someone looking to make trouble. “Buy an outer case and sticker that shit up. Keep it at home when you travel or swap with a clean outer case. It’s ok to be yourself and have fun,” Mr. Mitchell reminded Motherboard. “Support your favorite nonprofits, open source projects, and surveillance circumvention tech. But nothing comes at no cost or risk.”
And maybe it’s not always a bad thing to broadcast your geek. Tor’s Moritz Bartl recalled how everything in his vehicle was stolen, raided. The only thing remaining when all was said and done was his very stickered laptop. “Police assumed it was [left behind] because it is hard to resell,” Mr. Bartl tweeted.
Do you broadcast your enthusiasm for crypto? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images via Pixabay.