Encrypted phone check at the airport

Sorry, if this is off topic, but I don’t know where to ask. At some countries / destinations you have to unlock your noteboock, if you have it protected with a password, so they can inspect its contents. On PC there are plenty of options, how to easily hide content - by dual boot and replacing bootloader, veracrypt with two passwords, etc, but I wonder if I can do something similar with a smartphone?

How do you pass airport checks with e/OS/? I want to travel with encrypted smartphone, but I do not want them to sniff around my data. Option A is clear, backup, factory reset, and forget about encryption & privacy. Is there option B? I do not want to play James Bond, yet I like my privacy. Is there some plausible solution for smartphones? I mean something better than prepare VPN at home, when I arrive, download the data and encrypt the phone and when I want to head back, backup, factory reset again to pass the airport, at home again encrypt and download data… It is too much work and this is not a solution, if police stops me in the street and want to inspect my phone inside the country. If I take a picture and delete it, they can still see the deleted content, right? How do you protect your smart phone privacy in non free countries? Thanks for any cool ideas.

I think you can backup you device content, store to an SDcard pass the border, and then restore the phone.

How would you suggest backing up and restoring a phone running /e/OS to / from an external SD card?

  • Is SeedVault now functional in /e/OS?
  • Has it been changed to allow backing up all apps, user accounts and settings?

I was thinking about TWRP plus some other things you know better than me.

That would do it I suppose if TWRP backup works on your device.

I’d say it depends on your needs and purposes. If you travel for personal purposes / pleasure, I’d bring a secondary burner phone which you can just factory reset and show it to them. I would also make sure to backup my most important contacts, SMSes and emails to a cloud of your choice so you can just redownload / resynchronize the burner phone afterwards. And then you just show the airport security your phone doesn’t pose any threat.

This way you don’t bring in your primary phone with your important data in it. And in case somebody steals your secondary burner phone, you can be sure you still have your primary phone available back in home.

I found that seedvault backup which /e/os offers doesn’t export everything into the backup. I am not sure about TWRP, but it should indeed work better than seedvault.


I fully agree with that. No backup that you carry with you could resist an investigation, even encrypted or passworded (you may be forced to give the password).

Most essential services (Murena Cloud, banks, travel agencies, etc) can be used from their web site without any app. So, I suggest you buy a 2-SIM low-cost burner, and a local SIM with data plan (you may also subscribe to a short-term VPN offer). And of course browsers in “privacy” mode.

When it come to pictures, once uploaded through VPN you can use a secure erase app, there are plenty around. Or reset the device, then fill up storage with garbage :wink:

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Thanks for the tips.

I think, that secondary phone ‘hidden’ in a bag, which will be seen on x-ray, will bring much more attention, than burner one I’m about to show them. I can always say it is a backup for a case my primary dies, but I’m sure they will inspect it. A burner phone might be a good decoy for police patrol in the streets though, only if they are not too thourough during random checks. I have never been in a non free country yet, but I lived in one, bad shave attracted patrols like a magnet. Actually just being outside and not at work / at school was suspicious :slight_smile: sorry for off topic.

I’m using e/os/ recovery on my S5, not twrp, but I believe I can try to replace e recovery with twrp. Is it possible without data loss? Maybe it won’t be so much pain to backup and restore with twrp.

I was thinking about some dual boot solution with plausible deniability, which offers veracrypt, but it is not possible on a phone, right?

For simple people it is fine to have a special phone for travels. And anyway, not everywhere allows foreigners to use the mobile network.

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Has anyone tried veracrypt or analog for encrypted storage?

At which countries should a person be worried?

Hi, I have a question which may sound stupid, but I am thinking if travelling abroad with phone having /e/ os or Lineage os on board could be an issue. Lately there was raised a question regarding some possible issues on the airport. What is your experience?
p.s. I go abroad for the first time in life and I am sorry if this question sounds silly :blush:

It depends where you’re going to :wink:
There are known country to have very intrusive laws for incoming foreigners. For example U.S., Russia, Iran, North Korea, …

Talking in the conditional, I don’t know. There is the French embassy website for French travellers with informations for real life. Also, Michelin guide is my best book.
Nevertheless, the traveller is responsible of it’s identity, what it does, where and when.

Save your private data to an email like hotmail or some other place to store data (cloud). Back up contact, sms, signal excreta. Reset the phone and put some data in it like a few calls and text. Once inside county install your apps and then import the data.

Where are you going the USA LOL… Same with my country these days, they can look at your phone if you don’t live here (Canada).

And what about UK? Are they that intrusive? And could they be against google free os?

Yes UK probably the worst of G7 who look in your phone.
But almost thinking your question is a ruse now because why not enter the country with any android phone then update once in place?

I really do not think Google free would be the problem. Would you or might you feel self conscious if asked in a challenging way at the border why you had a “very unusual and special” phone ?

I am surprised to hear this view; not to challenge it but to offer a UK perspective.

The UK is a very tolerant country – I hope you enjoy your visit. I believe it is significant that police do not stop anyone in the street and ask for their papers. Furthermore police also cannot challenge anyone in the street without providing a very good reason.

UK is informed of threat to UK by Security Service MI5 – threat levels, today the threat is seen as SUBSTANTIAL.

Speculation, Border Force at point of entry may use little tricks to establish individuals who may be a threat to UK. Asking an individual to show their phone might be quite a good way to highlight those who present a threat. I imagine there will be people trained to spend 2 minutes looking at a phone and ask one or two challenging questions. Might any of your nervous feelings get in the way of fast progress ?

"It is better to travel hopefully … " with good preparation for what makes you most comfortable.


I simply go abroad for the first time in life and lately UK has this bill being considered about banning Signal for exampkl. I’ve decided to ask here, as only here I can consult it with people really reinstalling phones and having wider knowledge on this topic.

None of that has actually happened. At the moment it is all FUD. Both UK and EU are discussing issues around encryption, improving security, at the same time as asking for backdoors into secure messaging systems. But as yet there areno new laws in place, only a lot of clickbait articles and conspiracy theories sbout whay those discussions might lead to.

Come to the UK - you will be welcome, and no one will ask to see the contents of your phone or laptop