Containing Compromised Electronics in a CyberSecurity Emergency

Disclaimer: This content is the result of my having survived several emergencies of varying effect sizes. Most of these ideas are rules of thumb, and not canned answers. As in any emergency your best outcome will be if you keep calm, consider many options, and flow from plan to backup plan as requried.

Remember that you are ethically obligated to prevent the spread of electronic worms, just as we would contain the flu. You should carefully contain the dirtiest electronics as you leave an emergency area.

Please secure all USB devices with memory that have been used in the emergency area. Please put tape over the connector and physically secure them.

You would think that I could write advice like the following "If you absolutely must use a machine to communicate, please use your cleanest machine and connect it to a new network via ethernet for the least amount of time possible." However, it seems that the great computer makers and the home systems administrators have unknowningly conspired to prevent such things. It seems that my (cleanest) laptop suripticiously access the wireless internet that my neighbor is blasting 100+ feet down the street. My cell phone might be doing the same thing. Since I cannot physically disable my wireless card, it seems that I am at the mercy of other people's security decisions.

That being said, as knowledgable users, we must still do our best to contain potential hazards. I will give the best advice that I know. If you disagree, please email me. Perhaps the only advice on this page that is reasonable the bit about securing USB devices.

Cell Phones

Note: smart cell phones are currently incredibly difficult to contain, so this page is devoted to laptop and desktop security. To contain a cell phone, the best policy is to turn it off unless you need it to save a life.

The best containment that I know for the iPhone is to turn it off and put it in a HideCell pocket. The HideCell pocket, made from metalic materials that disrupt certain RF frequencies, can be purchased from Amazon.

Keep in mind that theses RF disruptor materials only disrupt certain bands of the EM spectrum, i.e. those specific to WIFI and radio devices. They cannot block all bands of the EM spectrum. Duffle bags made of the same RF disruption materials can be purchased to contain an array of WIFI devices.


To contain a laptop or desktop computer, please do the following: If given no way to physically secure the machine, please destroy it. Destroying a machine is somewhat difficult. It is insufficient to disable the motherboard. It is insufficient to remove the harddrive from the machine. Please consider the following steps. Please secure your machine before you consider shipping it to the third world. It woud be incredibly cruel to pass on infected technology with it's problems to a struggling economy.

Please secure your machine before you consider cleaning it. This will help remind you which devices may have worms, and will prevent their spread.

Please secure your machine every time you travel.

Please secure all USB devices with memory that have been used in the emergency area. Please put tape over the connector and physically secure them.


  1. If your boss manufactures a computer, please ask them to install a hardware switch that disables the wireless adapter.
  2. If you know of an open wireless network, please ask the administrator to add password protection.
  3. If you know of other high risk electronics that should be contained, please email the professor.
  4. If you know how to secure a cell phone, please create a web page with useful guidelines.
  5. If you work for a cell phone manufacturer, please ask them to create physical switches that disable transmission on their cell phones.
  6. If you know of a wireless network with unreasonable range, please ask the administrator to dial back the power.
  7. Weren't there FCC rules about the ranges of wireless devices? Perhaps the govenment should start enforcing it's own reasonable rules.

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