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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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I forget now...
By DtTall on 2/7/2012 12:59:17 PM , Rating: 3
Did anybody not see this coming? I mean really, how could you not?

Even if it is clear that the individual didn't forget the password, there is no (legal) way to force her to say it.

RE: I forget now...
By Flunk on 2/7/2012 1:06:29 PM , Rating: 4
There are a few techniques to make yourself forget things like this. Even if she did actually remember her password before the trial she could have purposefully forgotten it.

This was always a stupid idea in the first place, basically the equivalent of asking her to confess and incriminate herself.

RE: I forget now...
By GuinnessKMF on 2/7/2012 8:46:48 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind too. What a great Documentary.

RE: I forget now...
By bebimbap on 2/7/2012 1:10:13 PM , Rating: 2
After this case, all users have to do is set encryption on their hard drives so when the FBI comes you can just "forget" your crimes

RE: I forget now...
By tayb on 2/7/2012 1:11:01 PM , Rating: 5
It's no different than locking a fragile document in a combination safe. The US Government would bear the responsibility in this particular example of cracking the safe and stealing the documents. The act of cracking the safe would pose a danger to the documents just as attempting to crack an encrypted drive poses a danger to the documents. You can't get around this by demanding the defendant open it for you.

It is not impossible to decrypt a drive just as it is not impossible to crack a safe. At some point the US Government invested in tools to crack safes. They'll have to do the same for encrypted drives.

Sorry but I'm not willing to waive my rights or anyone else's rights even if it means one or ten guilty people being set free.

RE: I forget now...
By Iketh on 2/7/2012 3:51:53 PM , Rating: 1
The manufacturer of safes are consulted to aid in opening them. I'm curious if Microsoft or Apple could/would be consulted in cracking their encryptions.

Also, wouldn't the password have to be buried somewhere within the OS accessible by Microsoft/Apple?

RE: I forget now...
By Gondor on 2/7/2012 4:46:04 PM , Rating: 2
With any decent encryption you don't actually store the passphrase; you only store encrypted data and need that specific passphrase (or one that fits exact same criteria for decryption !) to access the data, otherwise you're just looking at a set of scrambled bytes.

And it is trivial to increase the passphrase length and algorithm complexity compared to the amount of time required to brea the encryption.

This whole story is absurd anyway: if she had indeed commited bank fraud, there are bound to be some bank records of it , plus other records (of communication and such). I'm not sure what the dumbphuck investigators are doing there but obviously not their job, otherwise the prosecution wouldn't have to cling on her self-incrimination to win the case.They are looking for her "black book" diary of bank frauds (?!) ... idjits.

RE: I forget now...
By Strunf on 2/8/2012 7:47:30 AM , Rating: 2
Cracking a safe (any safe) is possible within a reasonable amount of time and without any risk for the papers, you just need the right tools.
In this case it's nearly impossible to decrypt the hard drive regardless of the tools you use, I think there's no real reason a person should be allowed to not give her password to the law enforcement authorities, if everyone would be encrypting their hard drives including on a business level our judicial system would be seriously handicapped.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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