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 10:26:23 AM
How long has this case been going on for? The prosecutors ask the judge 2 years later for the judge to force her to unlock her password?
2 years is a long time. You can even forget a basic password to any of your forums if you haven't gone there in 2 years. Say she claims to have used a 30 character password full of upper, lower, numbers and special characters. Simply can not just remember something like that after 2 years of never using it. Also, what if she kept it written down somewhere and it is a piece of evidence that the cops never picked up or tossed out thinking it was just garbage.
Seems like she can easily say "I forgot" or "you didn't pick up my password, I had to write it down to remember it"
1/25/2012 10:38:20 AM
Even if she did unlock it, with a program like TrueCrypt, you still have plausible deniability if you opt to use this portion of the program. Hidden Volume and Hidden OS.
Just because she says no doesn't mean sh/t. If you a cop were to come to your house right now to search it, what would you say? I'd say no as I hope everyone else would. Does that make me a bad guy? Nope!
She says no, then has truecrypt, with the extra layers of protection, cops are still going to be stumped and pissed off at her. Plus if she knows she is the wrong, and they may or may not find what they are looking for, this does at least buy her freedom until they do get her in jail, if they can.
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