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
1/25/2012 3:15:50 AM
Bank fraud or mass murderer, I don't care, she shouldn't have to decrypt it.
There should be plenty enough evidence for her crime on bank computers if she commited the fraud electronically, and if not then it is even more absurd to require her to decrypt her info.
If they don't have enough evidence through the bank's security system, then they are suing the wrong person. They should sue the manager that decided to skimp on IT security expenses in favor of their own ridiculous paycheck.
RE: still wrong
1/25/2012 7:15:48 AM
So say the cops find someone at the scene of a murder, covered in the victims blood, with a security camera of someone (can't see the face) stabbing the victim. This someone is read the miranda rights (Anything you say can and will be used against you), and then brought into custody. While on the phone this person admits to their spouse that the knife is in a safe in their car that is rigged to destroy everything inside if someone screws with the safe. Does a judge have a right to ask her for the combination since he already knows that there is a murder weapon in the safe? Under current law, including the 5th amendment, they do and it's not violating any rights because she WILLINGLY offered the information about what is in the safe.
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