Colorado Woman Ordered to Decrypt Laptop in Bank Fraud Case
January 24, 2012 9:40 AM
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Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn said the Fifth Amendment does not protect her from the order
A Colorado woman was told to decrypt her laptop in court on Monday in order to aid prosecutors in her bank fraud case.
Ramona Fricosu, the defendant who was accused of bank fraud in 2010, had her laptop seized by authorities during the investigation. However, authorities stumbled upon a big problem while attempting to search her hard drive --
it was encrypted
Full disk encryption, which prevents unauthorized access to data storage, is an option found in operating systems like Mac OS and Windows. The encryption can take decades to break, and if authorities tried to crack it, it could damage the computer.
That's why Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn ordered that Fricosu decrypt her hard drive and return it to the court so prosecutors can use her files against her in the bank fraud case.
Fricosu used the Fifth Amendment to protect herself. She argued that the Fifth Amendment protects her from compelled self-incrimination, and that the judge's order violates this. However, Blackburn didn't agree.
"I conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of unencrypted contents of the
Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop
computer," said Blackburn.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies backed Blackburn's order, saying that allowing encrypted content to defeat authorities would send the wrong message to other criminals. In her words exactly, it would be a "concession to her [Fricosu] 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."
Blackburn has ordered Fricosu to return the
unencrypted hard drive
by February 21. Civil rights groups are keeping a close eye on the case.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
1/24/2012 11:03:44 AM
they must surely already have proof of this 'illegal' activity, enough to bring a court case without even knowing what proof is on the laptop anyway.
So why would they even need to decrypt it?
if they dont have enough proof and evidence then they shouldnt have taken it to court anyway.
But anyway, lets forget the digital aspect here. Imagine the police suspect someone has something illegal in a garage somewhere, but the garage is locked up, can they force the defendant to give the key to the lock? What if the key has been lost, or misplaced? Or simply thrown away?
What if the person can no longer remember how to decrypt the notebook, what if they forgot the password, or had it written down and can no longer recollect where they placed the key here?
I have no idea what happens in either of these cases but i doubt that in the garage instance that the defendent can be done for not supplying the key beyond what is found in the garage, and surely the same should happen for the digital scenario too.
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