Woman Ordered to Decrypt Laptop in Bank Fraud May Have "Forgotten" Password
February 7, 2012 12:36 PM
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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.
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So rights are meaningless...
2/8/2012 12:31:04 PM
Our rights are meaningless if they are able to be negated because having those rights makes it difficult to prosecute criminals. The entire justice system in the US was created to protect the rights of the citizens even if that means some criminals go free.
In the end, this ruling is worthless. They cannot force a person to give their password. The obvious defense is to say that they forgot it. You can't prove that they didn't forget it, and are you really going to put them in jail until they remember it? So we've surrendered rights and gotten no security or justice in return... Great job, Judge.
"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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