Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Feds attempt to force suspect to provide laptop password - myce.com

One Damn Good Reason To Lose Or Forget Your Password!

Federal prosecutors are attempting to have a judge force a Colorado woman to provide the decryption password for her personal laptop. The woman has been accused of bank fraud and the feds want access to the files on her computer for their case against her.

Defendant Ramona Fricosu had her laptop confiscated in 2010 via a court warrant while she was being investigated for financial fraud. Fricosu’s argument is that being forced to provide her password violates her Fifth Amendment protection against forced incrimination.

This case is similar to another from 2009 involving a Vermont man accused of having child pornography on his computer. That case resulted in the man being ordered by a Vermont judge to decrypt his hard drive. The difference between the Vermont case and Fricosu’s is that authorities had already seen the pornography on the defendants computer prior to him encrypting it.

Fricosu’s case marks the first of its kind to make it to federal courts and what’s more, the Supreme Court has never weighed in on a case like this.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is backing the defendant with Marcia Hoffman issuing a statement to the court (pdf). That statement declares that the very act of inputting the password is incriminating because “it might reveal she had control over the laptop and the data there.”

The authorities countered that argument saying, “the government knows that the defendant had access to, and control over, the subject computer immediately prior to the search warrant execution because it was found in her bedroom, on top of the laptop case.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies (pdf) argued that there is no Fifth Amendment issue at all and it would “require significant resources and may harm the subject computer” if the government was to try and crack the encryption themselves.

Davies continued on to say that by not forcing the defendant to decrypt her machine, it amounted “to a concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.”

This case will be one to watch and Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn is expected to give a ruling soon as to whether or not the defendant has to decrypt her hard drive. Either way, this case will likely set a precedent for all future cases like it.

All I Can say Is It Sure Does Suck When You Forget Your Passwords Doesnt It.