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  (Source: zeeshan.netai.net)
Ramona Fricosu's attorney says she may have forgotten the password

Last month, a Colorado woman was ordered to decrypt her laptop in order to help prosecutors obtain evidence in the bank fraud case against her. Now, Ramona Fricosu's attorney is saying that the defendant may have forgotten her password, further prolonging the case and getting prosecutors nowhere with the hard drive.

"It's very possible to forget passwords," said Philip Dubois, Fricosu's attorney. "It's not clear to me she was the one who set up the encryption on this drive. I don't know if she will be able to decrypt it. The government will probably say you need to put her in jail until she breaks down and does what she is ordered to do. That will create a question of fact for the judge to resolve. If she's unable to decrypt the disc, the court cannot hold her in contempt."

Davies said Fricosu has not said in any court documents that she has forgotten the password. They are waiting to see what position she takes in court.

Fricosu was accused of bank fraud in 2010, and had her laptop seized by authorities for investigative purposes. When attempting to search her hard drive, authorities found that it was encrypted using full disk encryption, which prevents unauthorized access to data storage. The option can be found in operating systems like Mac OS and Windows, and if authorities tried to crack it themselves, they could damage the computer.

Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn then ordered Fricosu to decrypt her hard drive and return it to the court so prosecutors could use the files against her in the bank fraud case. Fricosu tried using the Fifth Amendment to protect herself, arguing that it protects her from compelled self-incrimination.

However, Blackburn concluded that "the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer." Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies backed Blackburn's decision, saying that encryption cannot be a sure way for criminals to bypass the system.

Source: Wired



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This is exactly why this is a violation of her rights
By tayb on 2/7/2012 12:49:16 PM , Rating: 3
Divulging a password is an act of the mind. An act of the mind is protected by the 4th amendment. Providing a physical key to unlock a locked box is NOT an act of the mind because a physical key exists.

There is already precedent set on this. You cannot force someone to provide the combination to a combination locked box. I know the judge wants a conviction here but if they try and force this woman to provide the passcode and then convict her based upon evidence found in the computer the whole trial will be thrown out on appeal.

The computer is in the hands of the prosecutors. It is now THEIR responsibility to decipher the contents. You can't force an act of the mind. It's protected by the Bill of Rights.




By tayb on 2/7/2012 12:57:40 PM , Rating: 3
Oh dammit. It's 5th amendment. Oh well. I really wish you could edit.


By Souka on 2/7/2012 7:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
so wait a minute... the laptop she likely used on a daily basis, which required some sort of authentication to access the encrypted data, she convienently forgot how to use?

I guess she should sue the authorities for making her forget, including the value of the data. Oh wait, scratch that second part as she should have to decrypt the data to prove the value of it!

:)


By zzeoss on 2/8/2012 2:16:41 AM , Rating: 2
She was arrested in 2010. Do you remember the passwords you used in 2010?


By Strunf on 2/8/2012 7:29:24 AM , Rating: 2
If you used the password on a daily basis, sure... Your brain may forgot something really fast but if you use it very often you will remember it even after a long time!


By JediJeb on 2/8/2012 9:30:30 AM , Rating: 2
If it was so hard to remember maybe the police should look inside the battery cover to see if she hid it there ;)


By snikt on 2/8/2012 3:54:52 PM , Rating: 2
We make our users change their passwords to log on our network every 90 days, they can not use the last 3 passwords. The passwords must be at least 6 characters and alpha-numeric. This is just to log on to our domain. We have various systems that our users log in that require passwords as well. Some of our users can have as many as 5 logon accounts to use that can all be the same passwords but that's not always the case. The various systems our users log into are a little more strict with password structures: they can require up to at least 8 characters, alpha-numeric, and special characters, i.e. upper case, symbol, etc.

I can see how it is possible not to remember one or even several passwords


By Strunf on 2/9/2012 7:21:23 AM , Rating: 2
Those are network passwords, not the passwords you have on your personal computer, also if you forget one of the passwords you talk about a simple phone call to your IT guy and you have a new one right away, the password she forgot is on a whole different category cause if you forget it you lose everything.


By Senju on 2/9/2012 1:12:15 AM , Rating: 2
Well...I know my password was "2010xxxxx"....
so yea...I remembered it.


By Senju on 2/9/2012 1:14:55 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, you may want to ask her the other passwords she uses for her other Pcs at home. I know alot of people use the same PW on different PCs.


By FaceMaster on 2/7/2012 1:07:20 PM , Rating: 2
It's obvious that you've got a massive encrypted hard-drive full of pirated stuff ;)


By AmbroseAthan on 2/7/2012 1:23:14 PM , Rating: 2
Many of us agree with you, but the Judge did not:

quote:
Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn then ordered Fricosu to decrypt her hard drive and return it to the court so prosecutors could use the files against her in the bank fraud case. Fricosu tried using the Fifth Amendment to protect herself, arguing that it protects her from compelled self-incrimination.

However, Blackburn concluded that "the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer." Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies backed Blackburn's decision, saying that encryption cannot be a sure way for criminals to bypass the system.

More can be found in the previous article talking about it: http://www.dailytech.com/Colorado+Woman+Ordered+to...


By tayb on 2/7/2012 1:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
I know the judge did not and that is why I mentioned the appeal throwing out the whole trial. Lower judges want convictions and make rulings like this all the time hoping that the defendant will either cave or settle. I've been wrong often (who hasn't) but the combination-lock precedent that is already set seems pretty strong here.


By lagomorpha on 2/7/2012 1:36:12 PM , Rating: 3
I don't disagree with your reasoning that this is a violation of her right to not be forced to testify against herself, but there is no reason to think the appeals court will see it that way. They're not THAT much less retarded than lower courts.


By vol7ron on 2/7/2012 1:56:58 PM , Rating: 2
You also have to keep in mind that just because there's a precedent, doesn't mean that the judge has to enforce it - many times there's precedence that follows both ways. "Precedence" is a term movies like to throw out there to create some sort of drama.

What you're talking about is something that is made unconstitutional, which would escalate this to the Supreme Court (if denied in appellate court).


By nafhan on 2/7/2012 2:31:39 PM , Rating: 2
Among other things, I think one of the problems here is that our laws are not really created with the concept of citizens having free military grade encryption within easy reach.

Getting charged with disobeying an order from the court is pretty reasonable if they could show, for instance, that this woman had logged into her laptop yesterday, and every day prior for the last year (In this specific instance, given the length of time since she last logged in, forgetting is a somewhat reasonable excuse, though).

The "strictly constitutional" method you describe would be another way of handling this, that would be better from a citizen's right's perspective.

As an aside, I saw someone (I think it was on Ars) mention that they have a law in the UK that allows for someone to go to jail for up to 2 years for refusing to provide a password. That might be a reasonable middle ground.


By mmatis on 2/7/2012 6:03:38 PM , Rating: 4
As if this country's "Law Enforcement" or "Legal System" give a damn about the Constitution or the Bill of Rights...


"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein














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