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Feds decrypt suspect’s hard drive, avoiding more appeals

Posted at 01 March 2012 17:42 CEST by etdragon

It seems that whether or not the Government can force a defendant to decrypt their hard drive for the purposes of an investigation has become a moot issue. In the case against a Colorado woman accused of mortgage fraud, Federal agents have managed to decrypt the suspect’s hard drive without her assistance.

Just last week an appeals court upheld the ruling that Ramona Fricosu would have to decrypt her hard drive so that agents could have access to the content. That ruling was made on the basis that police already had an idea of what was contained on the hard drive after intercepting a phone call where the suspect alluded to the fact that there may be incriminating data on the encrypted segments of the drive.

This week Federal agents managed to decrypt the drive without getting the password from Fricosu, making this whole legal battle a non-issue. Phillip Dubois, Fricosu’s lawyer, gave a phone interview on Wednesday in which he stated, “They must have used or found successful one of the passwords the co-defendant provided them.”

Dubois was delivered a document on Wednesday of all the information that was contained on the drive. Fricosu’s ex-husband co-defendant, Scott Whatcott, is also accused in the case and Dubois thinks he was the one who provided the password to authorities so that they could decrypt the drive.

The battle over whether or not a hard drive decryption password is protected under the Fifth Amendment will likely continue on in the coming months. The recent finding that refusing to decrypt your drive is protected under the Fifth Amendment by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding a case against a Florida man sets an interesting precedent. We’ll have to see how that decision impacts similar cases going forward.

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There are 5 comments

coolcolors
MyCE Resident
Posted on: 02 Mar 12 15:05
    Quote:
    Scott Whatcott, is also accused in the case and Dubois thinks he was the one who provided the password to authorities so that they could decrypt the drive
    So what are the legal implications for him since he now provided the password can he be prosecuted that without the consent or approval of the other parties consent he violated their right to self incrimination as well or their privacy? Maybe someone with more know how on this could enlighten me on this ???
    cholla
    MyCE Resident
    Posted on: 02 Mar 12 17:21
      I believe what he did was completely legal as far as criminal law is concerned.
      He most likely was offered a deal by the prosecution for this information .
      He gets either a lesser charge or maybe none at all .

      IMO the prosecution shouldn't be able to make deals like this As it circumvents due process . Further it is unfair to the defense . Can you imagine a judges response to the defense attorney that ask to give a witness immunity for their testimony ? One that would favor the defense side.
      We all know that the prosecution makes this kind of deal on a daily basis . That is why there are as many innocent people convicted.
      A person can legally give any information they have to law enforcement . There are a few exceptions but this case is not one of those.
      The concept in law is if you want to keep information about yourself private don't give anyone else the information . Once you do they can do with it what they want to.
      The exception is contract but that is civil law. If he signed a non-disclosure agreement he could be sued .
      coolcolors
      MyCE Resident
      Posted on: 02 Mar 12 22:15
        Quote:
        Originally Posted by cholla
        The exception is contract but that is civil law. If he signed a non-disclosure agreement he could be sued .
        I think the defense if the other party was smart about their business model most likely had them signed such forms. If they could post the contract what might help us as well but then again the is private info only to the party and their lawyers.
        AllanDeGroot
        MyCE Resident
        Posted on: 02 Mar 12 22:48
          a Confidentiality agreement is essentially unenforceable if what is being "protected" by that agreement is criminal acts.

          Oh sure they can sue you for breaching the agreement but good luck winning in court and not being forced by that court to pay the costs for
          both sides of the civil case.

          particularly if the plantiff in the case has previously been convicted of the criminal activity revealed by said breech.



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          Romphotog
          MyCE Junior Member
          Posted on: 01 Apr 12 04:05
            good encryption, 72-bits AES and above, is not possible to break. distributed.net states any password over 12 characters, using lower+upper+numbers+symbols is not possible to crack.

            Symbol count Entropy per symbol
            Case sensitive alphanumeric (a-z, A-Z, 0–9) 62 6bits
            All ASCII printable characters 95 6.57bits
            All extended ASCII printable characters 218 7.7bits

            95^14 = 181,543,632 years
            62^15 = 24.7m years

            128-bits
            -----------
            Length: 26
            Charset Size: 95

            Length: 30
            Charset Size: 26

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