The defendant's attorney believes the co-defendant provided the password

After much debate over whether authorities in a bank fraud case could order the defendant to decrypt her laptop, Colorado federal authorities have managed to decrypt the device themselves.

Back in January, Ramona Fricosu, who was accused of bank fraud in 2010, had her Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop seized by Colorado authorities during the investigation. However, the feds had a hard time searching her hard drive because it was encrypted. Full disk encryption prevents unauthorized access to data storage, and if the authorities were to try and decrypt it themselves, they could damage the computer.

Fricosu was then ordered to return an unencrypted hard drive by February 21. She attempted to use the Fifth Amendment to protect herself from compelled self-incrimination, but Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn ruled that it could not be applied to this case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies backed the order.

"[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," said Davies.

In early February, Fricosu's attorney said that the defendant might have forgotten the password required to decrypt the hard drive. Whether this was a scheme to try and get out of decrypting the device or not, it didn't work. Colorado authorities have finally unlocked the hard drive.

"They must have used or found successful one of the passwords the co-defendant provided them," said Philip Dubois, Fricosu's attorney.

The co-defendant in the case is Fricosu's ex-husband, Scott Whatcott. Whatcott and Fricosu allegedly filed fraudulent documents to obtain home titles and then sell the houses without every paying the mortgage.

The Colorado federal authorities sent Dubois a copy of the information they found on the hard drive yesterday, but he has yet to look it over.

Source: Wired

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