Once when I was boarding a plane to fly into TLV from Athens, I got about 200 questions in the space of 5 minutes, from 3 different people. When I mentioned who I used to work for, they asked me what that kind of work entailed, what did my office building look like, what city was it in, where was I living at that time, why was I living somewhere else, etc. I got the same questions multiple times, spaced apart.
They don't actually give a crap what my old office building looked like. They're looking for responses that appear delayed, evasive, made up.
After the questions I had to follow them to another room to have my bags meticulously inspected and scanned. They then checked my bags for me (breaking my zipper in the process - and no, the airline didn't do jack about it) and finally let me board. After I was on, they barged on and insisted some older passenger who had been sitting quietly leave the plane immediately while it was on the tarmac, and left.
Traveling through Israel is a pain in the ass.
There was one time, the company missed issue me that letter. I had to go thru the 2 hours security hell which they inspected and questioned everything.
After that, I have decided that I would never go back to Israel again for biz or any other purposes. It is just not worth it.
I think you mean the other way around. If you are being asked all these questions the flight was from TLV to Athens. Right?
"El Al security procedures require that all passengers be interviewed individually prior to boarding, allowing El Al staff to identify possible security threats. Passengers are asked questions about their place of origin, the reason for their trip, their job or occupation, and whether they have packed their bags themselves. [...] Even at overseas airports, El Al security agents conduct all luggage searches personally, even if they are supervised by government or private security firms."
I've also faced heightened security traveling from TLV to other airports, featuring another barrage of questions and extra screening. But to their credit, they helped me skip some lines and get to the plane just before it left.
Exactly. AFIK I responded normally.
Not to mention someone actually doing something malicious with their computer probably wouldn't tell security they're a SW eng.
Well isn't this true?
I am sorry for your ordeal but there is nothing an airline can do with this matter. Have you tried contacting the airport itself?
None of this makes sense on the face of it. I wonder if you were connected to a network that was compromised and they tracked your computer? Also unlikely.
Do you think the last person you talked to was just having a bad day and as you got annoyed you triggered them and they took it on you?
As others have referenced, Israeli airport security use profiling extensively. The questions that are asked are almost (but not quite) irrelevant - they are trained to gauge a person's reactions, their unconscious biological responses, etc.
It seems likely to me that what they keyed in on wasn't the author's questions, responses, or even their general attitude, but the overall resistance to having their laptop searched. The distinction between "I resent this process and need my laptop for work" and "If they take my laptop I'm going to be in trouble" is probably below the threshold of their training. I'd even say it's possible that the author's reaction to having their laptop confiscated was part of the profiling technique.
The fact that they let them continue on to their flight tells me that they didn't perceive them to be a security risk at the end of the process.
I’m having a bit of trouble understanding the rationale allowing continued travel, but not allowing continued travel with the laptop. Can anyone here shed a bit of light on this?
> The distinction between "I resent this process and need my laptop for work" and "If they take my laptop I'm going to be in trouble" is probably below the threshold of their training.
And I agree with you. But 1000s of people must resent the process and need their laptops! If they picked up on that, they would have to confiscate laptops approaching 100% of the time they asked people questions about it.
I heard before that Israeli security can be scary if they sense you went to either Palestinian areas or some of their flags get triggered. But no excuse for them to do what they do.
I hope you raising this issue help you get your laptop back.
I personally worry that they might take my laptop from me and install some spyware, so I try not to carry one, or if I do, travel with Chromebook. Whenever I can get away without carrying laptop, it is huge relief to just breeze through customs. Essentially excuses they have to talk to you are diminished and potential for some unpleasant interaction are greatly reduced.
I carry Kindle and if I have to Chromebook, life is much simpler. Friends borrow me their laptops if I have to do some work.
Again, sorry for what is happening to you, I can't even imagine how horrible you are feeling, hope for quick and positive resolution.
Did you get a taxi to the airport, or dropped from a friend?
I assume they're very comfortable with Turkish Airlines at this point.
Oh absolutely. That also means they are very good at identifying who does and who does not "fit" the standard profile of a regular flyer for that specific flight. OP tripped something.
* The security of the laptop, electronic devices in its vicinity, or the purchaser is not guaranteed.
This is airport security in Israel. It's not security theater. It's the real deal. There is something in this story that is missing. You may not know what it is, but those people are really good at their jobs. Was that really your laptop? Were all the files on it really yours? Were you really just there as a SW engineer? Did you really tell them the truth to all 20 questions?
You've claimed to spend time in the country. You know how it works. The people in security make good money and have access to tons of resources ... they don't want your laptop for fun or a side hustle. If you have a grievance against the Israeli government, there is due process there just like in the US. It works as well there as it does in the US. File a suit... the courts will sort this out. (Edit: You also would have received a claim ticket for confiscated property, just like in many US jurisdictions. Something is missing from this story.)
Publicity just makes you look like you are acting in bad faith.
> A few months earlier in the same airport, a tech engineer returning from a business trip to London objected when a federal agent asked him to type his password into his laptop computer. "This laptop doesn't belong to me," he remembers protesting. "It belongs to my company." Eventually, he agreed to log on and stood by as the officer copied the Web sites he had visited, said the engineer, a U.S. citizen who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of calling attention to himself.
Except in Israel the threat is real, and the security guards are actually competent
Completely agree here. Millions pass through TLV every year and don't have their laptops confiscated, something twigged their interest.
The question is why he was able to carry on flying
You are not "outreaching" some minority tribe here. You are selling your expertize for good money.
Israel is the 2nd biggest VC market in the world (maybe 3rd after US, China?).
Sorry about your laptop though. There is current incredible outreach of Israelis to tourists who have had a bad experience while visiting.
We do our best !! Luckily your plane did not blow up.
I guess it's a good thing he didn't say or even hint at either of those two ideas.
>We do our best !! Luckily your plane did not blow up.
Luck? The odds of your plane blowing up are exceedingly rare. He's also "lucky the earth wasn't blown up by an errant asteroid". To suggest the airport stealing his laptop (or ANYONE'S laptop) somehow prevented his plane or any other plane from blowing up is ludicrous. It's not even security theater, it's plain theft.
He'd be lucky if his plane did blow up, since it's such a rare occurrence.
Even if you get your device back, after someone takes it behind the curtain and fiddles with it ... How can you be sure that they have not compromised it for its onward journey?
For most of us here in particular that's very silly as well as completely unrealistic, we need some level of electronics for our work even beyond that it makes many kinds of travel much more practical. However, what is worth considering (at least when traveling internationally) is to have specific dedicated travel electronics. One consequence of the end of Moore's Law and the flattening of the performance curves in PCs and now mobile devices as well is that older kit can still be perfectly serviceable for travel usage. I replaced my 4 year old notebook and 3 year old phone last year for example, but this time rather then sell the old ones (which aren't worth that much anyway) I just kept them and changed them into specific clean travel devices (and with the notebook in particular oriented around remote work for most stuff).
That kind of opsec was a lot more expensive and difficult at one point, but these days I think it's ever more practical and it reduces potential headaches and opportunities for screwups (by me) a lot. It's much easier to make sure nothing critical is on a device I wipe regularly and much easier to maintain compartmentalization with physical separation. If any of it ever was seized I'd still be bummed/irritated, it's still worth some money and on a practical level it'd mean I didn't have it for the rest of the trip (even if the rest is just "the flight home" and all I wanted was to read a bit). But nothing I couldn't just write off ever seeing again or that could cause me any trouble even if it was cracked.
Furthermore if a laptop (or other electronic device) is purchased in a foreign country either dont bring it back or bring it back and shred it.
I know this sounds extreme and expensive, but with cloud storage and cheap laptop's i cant imagine anyone travling to a foreign country not being able to have a secondary "disposable" machine with cloud backups (could be a challenge in say china, but if you are doing buisness in a country like that (government monitored and access restricted) you should have company policies in place already).
As recommended elsewhere in these comments, I'll likely use Chromebook + https://www.paperspace.com/ in the future, and implement a travel policy for my team regarding what material can be taken where.
That 5% (taxes, paperless office) happens on my MacBook.
So I’ve start to do the same thing: MacBook for US travel, $40 laptop for international travel.
Lucky for me, my laptop was completely out of battery, so when they opened my MBP, all they saw was the red blinking battery symbol. They mumbled to each other under their breathes, handed me my laptop, and waved me through.
Yes I went through several tiers of security as well, each with different organizations it seemed (airport, private, gov't).
Yes, I would. I would expect the most secure airport in the world to be in a small country that has been at war with several of its neighbors within living memory. I would expect it to be a country that's technologically-sophisticated and well-funded. I would expect it to be in a country that has had issues with terrorism.
In other words, Israel is exactly where I would expect to find it.
At least they should have said, wait, let's clone it and here is your laptop back. Unless they suspected you of economic espionage or whatever and didn't you to have it with you. Either way, unless charged with a crime it's theft.
This also may be a part of industrial espionage done by Israel.
This has two consequences: 1. I travel light and 2. If something doesn’t get seized that’s great news!
Pull in whatever data you need after passing these risky checkpoints. Destroy the data again afterwards.
(with positive I refer to someone who is considered dangerous or an enemy)
having said that I went twice to Israel from Germany and coming back from Istanbul and never had issues. actually I find it quite exciting to experience the perfectly orchestrated security measures. obviously though also because I never got the tough treatment so far.
A thin client (super cheap 'disposable' laptop) and a beefy remote workstation will give you all the horsepower to do your work, but limit the financial damage if the laptop gets stolen by airport security bullies.
In many cases, obtaining a hotel room key requires only entry-level social engineering. How do I know? I've received keys for my own hotel rooms from the front desk with essentially no verification. Adding a rootkit to a laptop depends on how well-secured it is, but that's often little more effort than inserting a flash drive and rebooting it.
These things require the resources of an individual and skills that can be learned from a google search.
Lots of things can go wrong with this sort of plan. But it's not a one-person job.
You might have your rootkit totally prepared and ready to go, and find that the person has a sub-1-kilogram sized netbook/small laptop that they take with them literally everywhere they go, in a backpack, small bag, or purse.
You might have an attack prepared and get there to discover that the laptop has had its USB ports disabled in the BIOS, with a BIOS password set, and insufficient time to work around that.
Your scenario is obviously more likely to succeed and less likely to be detected, but mine works more often than not. Being sure I have not done anything to attract the attention of an intelligence agency is not sufficient to be sure nobody has gained physical access to my laptop and installed malware.
Of course all it takes is a malicious USB.