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Defendant Ordered To Decrypt Laptop Claims She Had Forgotten Password

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the war-on-alzheimer's-patients dept.

Encryption 1009

wiedzmin writes "A Colorado woman that was ordered by a federal judge to decrypt her laptop hard-drive for police last month, appears to have forgotten her password. If she does not remember the password by month's end, as ordered, she could be held in contempt and jailed until she complies. It appears that bad memory is now a federal offense." The article clarifies that her lawyer stated she may have forgotten the password; they haven't offered that as a defense in court yet.

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Maybe it was ... (0)

alt.dev (2240786) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950583)

... gaben ?

Inside my HD there are two very important files (3, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950659)

One file is encrypted

The other one in plain text

If the cops / FBI / or whoever wants to confiscate my HD, the clues on how to decrypt that file is in the plain text file

But there is a catch --- Inside the plain text file I have a brief description and ten (10) urls, which are are links to online password generators.

And the brief description is as followed:

"Passkey is constructed from randomized password obtained from the below 10 urls, have a nice day !"

I did that to protect myself.

1. No matter what the judge ordered me to do, I point to that plain text file

2. I know I can never convince anyone that I forgot the passkey, so I won't tell them that. But I still have an escape clause --I simply can't remember a passkey which was made up from 10 randomized password generator by 10 different online password generators

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (2)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950689)

How would you remember it long enough to use them? It seems ... inconvenient.

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (4, Funny)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950707)

Because I do not plain to use them

They are "honey-pots" I left for the law-enforcement agents, just in case they are interested in what I have in my HD

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950727)

Well I'm glad that you released your brilliant plan on a public forum where said law enforcement agents surely wouldn't look.

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950775)

Well I'm glad that you released your brilliant plan on a public forum where said law enforcement agents surely wouldn't look.

Maybe he wants law enforcement to think those are just "honey-pots" so they don't try too hard to get at the content.

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (3, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950821)

Well I'm glad that you released your brilliant plan on a public forum where said law enforcement agents surely wouldn't look.

Maybe he wants law enforcement to think those are just "honey-pots" so they don't try too hard to get at the content.

If more people are doing that and the law enforcement agents are meeting more of HD with such files, how are they (law enforcement agents) going to know which files are honey-pots and which files have real juicy data in them ?

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (4, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950789)

Well I'm glad that you released your brilliant plan on a public forum where said law enforcement agents surely wouldn't look.

The more people set up honey-pots in their HD the more time law enforcement agents are going to waste, only to realize that they ain't gonna get anything useful

It's a "civil disobedience" way - and since it's our HD, we can put any type of files on our HD, right?

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950845)

So you could end up being detained forever or until you decrypt this file - which you can't - that doesn't even contain anything. Brilliant!
The prison industry would be proud.

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950873)

So you could end up being detained forever or until you decrypt this file - which you can't - that doesn't even contain anything. Brilliant!

1. If they want to detain me, they can use whatever excuse to detain me.

2. And when they insist that I must decrypt the file for them, hey, I have already offered my cooperation - all the information on how to decrypt the file is already IN THE PLAIN TEXT FILE

Legally speaking, what I was doing is this:

A. The HD belongs to me. I paid for the HD with my own money. I have the right to store any file in my HD

B. If they confiscated that HD that I owned and found a decrypted file, along with the plain text file that clearly describe how to decrypt that encrypted file, I am, technically and legally not disobeying their order

C. If they still insist that I lie, then, they have to proof that I lie.

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (4, Insightful)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950961)

I apologize if I'm being slow, but I'm stuck on how the note saying, "I derived my password from material I once got from these 10 sources" is the same as producing the passphrase demanded in a court order.

I mean, otherwise wouldn't the defendant in the article here say, "I know it was 120 characters selected at random from War and Peace", and call it a day? Because I'm getting the sense that an answer like that wouldn't cut it.

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (1)

johnsnails (1715452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950861)

I encrypt hd's so in the event of lost or stolen drives i know they are fairly safe.... If i had to decrypt for the cops I have no problem with the actual content... If i did well than.. http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/?s=hidden-volume [truecrypt.org]

Re:Inside my HD there are two very important files (4, Insightful)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950923)

So in the unlikely (?) event that the FBI want to search your hard drive, you've encrypted a non-sensitive file with a key you don't know because...you like prison food? Communal showering? Room mates named Tiny?

In short, your defence when the judge is threatening to find you in contempt will be 'What can I say, your honor? I'm a retard.'

Re:Maybe it was ... (5, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950867)

If this stands it means that anyone can be detained indefinitely without trial. All they have to say is "We believe this file is encrypted using stenography, give us the password" and since saying you don't know equals contempt of court tada! Instant disappearing person. Hell with most geeks they wouldn't even have to go that far, how many of you have truecrypt on some disc somewhere? all they'd have to say is "The defendant has truecrypt in his possession and we believe he has a hidden volume, give us the password' and tada! Bye bye geek. don't say it couldn't happen because it wasn't too long ago most of us would have never believed the USA would have free speech zones and rendition taxis either.

Kinda sad that after we spent all those years supposedly fighting the USSR because of freedom the wall falls only for us to slowly but surely become like the USSR.

Re:Maybe it was ... (1)

eddy (18759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950905)

I'll take this opportunity to state again, publicly, that I have multiple encrypted disks, partitions and files to which I no longer know the password.

Re:Maybe it was ... (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950941)

I'll take this opportunity to state again, publicly, that I have multiple encrypted disks, partitions and files to which I no longer know the password

No matter how many times or how forcefully you tell them you no longer remember the passwords of the encrypted files, they will not believe you

It's better you have documents to show them how you arrived at the passkeys that you used to encrypt the files

Stupid law (3, Insightful)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950587)

trivial workaround

Obligatory (2, Funny)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950591)

xkcd.com/538/ [xkcd.com]
Like this, only with less pain and more jailtime...

Hmm. (5, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950625)

I was about to mod your post, but then I realized there's no "Obligatory" option.

Re:Hmm. (-1, Redundant)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950657)

'fraid there is: it's called Redundant. And I would have spent a point to express that, were the opportunity to point it out not more enticing. There is no need to make a reference that everyone is already aware of.

Re:Hmm. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950761)

I was about to mod your post, but then I realized there's no "Why don't you pull that stick out of your ass" option.

Re:Hmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950825)

I was about to mod you funny... Oh wait I just did!

Re:Hmm. (0)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950877)

I was about to mod your post, but then I realized there's no "Why don't you pull that stick out of your ass" option.

'Flamebait' is close enough.

Re:Hmm. (0)

fatmal (920123) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950809)

Posting to remove incorrect mod - sorry

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950643)

Obviously, you haven't read even the summary ....

Re:Obligatory (0)

Zanterian (1624397) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950777)

Or like this this [xkcd.com] ,
only with less horses and more jailtime.

Re:Obligatory (2)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950929)

Oh, but there IS [slashdot.org] a way around that!

It worked for gonzales (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950593)

If it works in a congressional hearing investigating potential ethics violations of the Attorney General, why not in a court of law?

Re:It worked for gonzales (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950671)

And for presidents... "I did not [remember] having sexual relations with that worman."

Re:It worked for gonzales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950811)

"I don't remember authorizing any missiles for hostages or arming Nicaragua programs."

5th Amendment? (5, Insightful)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950601)

How can this woman be charged with contempt? Is there precedent in law to ignore the Fifth Amendment [wikipedia.org] ?

No person shall... be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Re:5th Amendment? (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950619)

Yes. The fifth amendment was repealed by the Patriot Act, along with the first and the fourth. Haven't you been paying attention?

How many Amendments are left ? (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950715)

Just curious

How many Amendments are still left, for the people?

Re:How many Amendments are left ? (5, Insightful)

Tim4444 (1122173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950741)

You mean for the corporation people or the people people?

Re:How many Amendments are left ? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950851)

You mean for the corporation people or the people people?

Doesn't matter, really.

What floats the boat can also sinks it

Re:How many Amendments are left ? (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950795)

I'm pretty sure you guys still have a large portion of the 2nd. Not that it matters though, all the machine guns, rifles and such you can carry don't mean a lot when you're faced with IFVs, main battle tanks and combat aircraft...

Re:How many Amendments are left ? (3)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950839)

If you're stupid enough to face them down heads-on, you deserve being trounced. Your tactics must take your resources into consideration and with conventional warfare unfeasible, selective assassination is a very interesting option. Of course, you would never suggest that because your loserboy "reasoning" is a puny excuse to simply do nothing at all. Keep fapping your life away.

Re:How many Amendments are left ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950871)

... all the machine guns, rifles and such you can carry don't mean a lot when you're faced with IFVs, main battle tanks and combat aircraft...

Yeah -- which is to say, we've got a tiny portion of the 2nd amendment.

Re:How many Amendments are left ? (0)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950881)

We're basically allowed guns from the 19th century. The idea of fighting the government via the second amendment died long ago, when anything more powerful than a high-caliber hunting rifle was banned. No one sane is going to take on anything with a semi-automatic rifle. I guess, though, we're all walking around with MP44s in the minds of Europeans.

Re:How many Amendments are left ? (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950935)

It's worked pretty well in a number of insurgent wars in the last couple decades. Also, many semi-auto weapons are relatively easy to modify to make automatic fire possible. It's rarely done only because there's little benefit in the face of the legal drawbacks. If one finds themselves on the smaller side of a lopsided war though, the legality of modifying the firearm becomes a relatively trivial consideration compared to the benefits.

Re:5th Amendment? (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950645)

[sarcasm] The constitution is a living document. These things were never meant to be taken literally. [/sarcasm]

Re:5th Amendment? (1)

Jophiel04 (1341463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950663)

The idea is that they are compelling her to decrypt the files and not actually hand over the password. It seems to hinge on whether the courts view the decryption of the files as analogous to compelling you to hand over paper files, etc., which you can be compelled to do, or whether by compelling someone to decrypt the files, they are being compelled to turn over the contents of their mind. To try and avoid the latter interpretation, it seems the government has opted for the first approach which is more ambiguous currently instead of asking them to tell them the password.

Re:5th Amendment? (2)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950735)

They can order you to turn over documents, sure. If you don't, do they actually hold you in contempt while they start executing search warrants? I would have figured that the 5th would preclude requiring any active participation against yourself. (But then, that's just common sense. Lawyers have no need of that.)

5th Amendment doesn't apply (0)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950679)

Production of documents under subpeona is a legitimate legal process, as is a search warrant to obtain relevant documents. For example, most companies have their documents on an encrypted database; they are still expected to produce relevant documents during discovery if a court orders them to.

Re:5th Amendment doesn't apply (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950755)

Yeah. Can you imagine what it would do to business if you're company file server was confiscated for years? It's just plain better business sense to comply. (unless the business is highly illegal anyway, or subject of a witch hunt)

Re:5th Amendment doesn't apply (5, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950855)

A search warrant does not require participation of the defendant. Neither would them cracking the encryption. It crossed the line into a constitutional violation when you begin to threaten people for not aiding their own prosecution: such as requiring someone to disclose the location of incriminating documents, or giving up passwords to encryption keys.

This is little different than demanding that someone accused of a murder disclose the location of the body, or be held in contempt of court: you cannot win either way. Therefore, it is unconstitutional, not a "legitimate legal process." Even were it considered such by the legal system - which it is not - it would still be unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights in need of correction.

You might consider it reasonable, but I think the fact it is possible to easily forget something like a password makes it unreasonable even if there were any sound arguments for violating the 5th.

Re:5th Amendment doesn't apply (4, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950857)

Yes, but due process includes requiring that the evidence subpoenaed exists and is under the control of the recipient. People forget things all the time. Just ask any helldesk person how frequently people forget passwords, even in cases where they have been duly informed that irrevocable data loss will result. If you've forgotten it, it is not under your control.

There exists no way to prove or disprove a claim that a person does not currently remember something. Even the most advanced (and unproven, non-admissible) technology only claims to be able to say if a person is familiar with something they are actually presented with during the test. Even then we can't say WHY it seems familiar. Given that stress and fear are great blockers of recall, it's quite believable.

I have no idea if the defendant REALLY can't remember the password or not. The only person who could possibly know for sure is the defendant.

Re:5th Amendment? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950687)

The court order is simply to type the password, she doesn't have to say what the password is nor give the prosecution a tour of the files therein so its not considered testimony. Thats the argument they are making anyways...

Re:5th Amendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950971)

but she forgot. thus, the court would have to issue a search warrant of her mind a la inception...

Poor woman (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950603)

I often can't remember my password after a week away from the office on holiday. (And we have quite lax policies regarding passwords, no time, lenght or content limits, so I have a fairly easy one I've been using for months....) I might be hard pressed to remember a password after a month, under dures.s

Re:Poor woman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950823)

Yea, I use semi-random passwords which I can only remember with constant use. Once had to reinstall the OS on a laptop I hadn't used for a while because I couldn't even begin to remember a password (in the comfort of my own home with nothing at stake) I used to type daily.

What if... (4, Interesting)

bgibby9 (614547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950607)

she honestly can't remember the password. How the hell are they going to rule on that???

Re:What if... (1)

Tukz (664339) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950651)

Well, usually you're innocent until proven guilty, so I guess they'd have to proof you didn't forget and are actually withholding it.
But how do you ever prove something like that?

There's lots of passwords I can't remember on the top of my head, I got password managers to take care of obscure passwords.
If it was me, I'd would genuinely say I wouldn't know the password.

No amount of threat, pressure or even torture would make me give up a password I don't know.

Re:What if... (2)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950673)

I don't know more than to say, "Contempt charges are different". From what I've read, it's somewhat at the whim of the judge.

Re:What if... (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950913)

To some extent, although this being a criminal trial, there are limitations on how long a person can be held in contempt without a hearing. (In a civil trial, you have no such right to review in most cases.)

Re:What if... (3, Interesting)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950773)

Well, usually you're innocent until proven guilty, so I guess they'd have to proof you didn't forget and are actually withholding it.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is all about how court cases are run. There is more than "innocent until proven guilty", there is also the fact that the police has to tell you about your rights, that they can't do illegal searches, and on the other hand that you have to cooperate in searches - which this woman is refusing to do. And there are rules what happens when someone acts against the court rules. Jurors can be jailed in extreme cases. Evidence can be thrown out. And _you_ can go to jail for "contempt of court". There are different rules applying.

Now the fact is that this is her computer, which she used daily for the scam she was running, and which she encrypted to cover her tracks. Forgetting the password seems unlikely.

Re:What if... (2)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950835)

I'd play for 'stress induced amnesia'. Or I'd say that the password was written in dust on my desk, and it was destroyed during the search.

Re:What if... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950955)

the password was written in dust on my desk, and it was destroyed during the search.

Thats a good one.

Re:What if... (5, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950693)

In the UK it works like this: If the prosecution can show that you probably know the password then you can go to jail for up to two years for refusing to give it. The burden of proof appears to be lower than the usual "beyond reasonable doubt" that is normally required, and evidence can be highly circumstantial. For example if you decrypted the data the day before you get arrested they could say you must know it, even if you happened to wipe the key or change the password or just genuinely forgot since. Justice is slow in the UK so it could easily be 6+ months before you are even asked.

The stupidest part is that going to jail for two years and having the conviction expire (so you no longer have to declare it when applying for a job) after a few more years is infinitely preferable to, say, going down for 20 years on terrorism or being put on the Sex Offenders Register for life. It seems almost like a conciliation prize for the police when they have failed to gather any other evidence and would otherwise have to let the suspect go.

Re:What if... (-1, Troll)

Will_TA (549461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950989)

My attitude is this; modern encryption provides an almost unbreakable lock. There is a consequence of using a lock of this perfection - "forgetting" the password whether deliberately or accidentally isn't a good enough reason to deny the court the evidence that they have required. If you are unable to remember that password, or ensure some other back door is in place then you should seriously consider whether you should be using encryption that strong.

Re:What if... (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950817)

Why rule on it when you can hold her in jail for 14 years? (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31856198/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/attorney-freed-after-years-jail/)

Re:What if... (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950927)

Civil contempt.

Anyway, he's just an evil deadbeat dad or something.

I'd claim the same (2)

fortunato (106228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950609)

If I were in her shoes, I'd claim the same thing. However, this is just going to be a justification for when technology let's "the man" truly read your mind to say there was just cause to do so in order to determine whether she really forgot or just pretended to and all the crazy ethical questions/arguments/fights that will ensue. These days I'm doubting ethics and philosophy can possibly keep up with the pace of technology. I hope I'm wrong!

This is why... (5, Funny)

gtch (1977476) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950623)

...you should put all the juicy stuff in plain sight on your harddisk. Then encrypt the stuff you don't care about. When the authorities finally get the password out of you, at least you'll have the satisfaction of confounding them.

Re:This is why... (5, Funny)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950639)

Or, name all of your mundane files things that are totally not-mundane.

Re:This is why... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950675)

I'm interested in location_of_the_body.jpg

Re:This is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950733)

Excellent.

I'm now considering putting "Murder" in the title of an calendar/appointment notebook

Stare Decisis IANAL (5, Interesting)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950637)

Let me ask this (and display my ignorance): If I had a safe and a judge ordered it opened, and I claimed I'd lost the key, would I be held in contempt? Or would it just be forced open? Would this ever see the courtroom at all? Can lawful seizure require active participation of the accused?

If I claim to no longer be in possession of a piece of evidence, and don't know were it is, could I be held in contempt? Couldn't I plead the fifth? "You want to convict me? You go find it."

I'm trying to figure out the stare decisis on this topic (equal and consistent application of the law). It just seems so darn inconsistent.

Safes not totally safe (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950709)

If you had a safe and there were reasonable grounds for believing it held incriminating information, then yes, the court could order that it be forced open. If you claim you've lost the key, then no harm has been done to your property as the safe is useless without the key, so you could not claim compensation. Of course, if the other side has evidence that your claim to have lost the key is a false one, then you are going inside for contempt or perjury.

Re:Safes not totally safe (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950799)

Let's assume the safe cannot be cracked (or at least not in a timely manner). What now?

Re:Safes not totally safe (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950803)

*sigh* - misplaced then.

And that still doesn't address my concern about requiring active participation in litigation against you. I just don't see why the fifth doesn't hold, even in the real world. Is it just another case of precedent overriding the Constitution? (SCOTUS has ruled that the clear intent of the Constitution is legally binding, even if something is omitted in the language - another slippery slope for another day.)

Re:Safes not totally safe (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950843)

And that still doesn't address my concern about requiring active participation in litigation against you. I just don't see why the fifth doesn't hold, even in the real world. Is it just another case of precedent overriding the Constitution? (SCOTUS has ruled that the clear intent of the Constitution is legally binding, even if something is omitted in the language - another slippery slope for another day.)

The password is not evidence. The password gives the court access to evidence that is not protected by the fifth amendment. Here is a different situation where you couldn't be compelled to tell the password:

There is a computer with encrypted files. It is definitely known that one of two persons encrypted the files, and that the person who encrypted the files is guilty of a crime, and the other person isn't. Here the fact alone that you know the password, or even that you once knew the password and forgot it, would be evidence against you. So in this case the password _is_ evidence. But in this woman's case, the password itself isn't evidence.

Re:Stare Decisis IANAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950771)

Not sure I understand your question. But yes, if a judge ordered a safe in your possession opened, the safe would be opened. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as an unbreakable safe.

The difference with encryption is that there are no publicly known methods of breaking certain forms of encryption. Hence the novel questions these cases bring about.

Re:Stare Decisis IANAL (2)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950819)

What if I build a $50 million safe with walls as thick as a normal house, a hundred different lock mechanisms and all sorts of thinkable measures to protect its content to the point where you would need to pour insane amounts of resources (costing along the lines of the cost of a supercomputer or two) to get into it. Would that mean I should suddenly be held in contempt by default if I forget how to access my safe's contents?

Re:Stare Decisis IANAL (3, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950805)

They'd just drill the safe. If you'd hidden the safe and they couldn't find it, they can't legally compel you to say anything that might help them convict you.

-jcr

it is not unusual to forget passwords (1)

thephydes (727739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950655)

Anyone who changes their passwords regularly - as we all do ... well should ... well forget to, will tell you that keeping track of them is difficult, and that under duress eg drunk, stoned, in court that they are well nigh impossible to remember.

Re:it is not unusual to forget passwords (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950833)

wish the myth of changing passwords regularly would die.

If she does actually know it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950665)

Is it now covered by the 5th amendment because giving it up now would be self-incriminating in the contempt charge?

By default.. (3, Insightful)

Methuselus (1011511) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950667)

Encrypting seems to be indicative of guilt or the need to hide something. The presumption of innocence suddenly does not seem to apply.

great (-1, Offtopic)

pledco (2512718) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950669)

best led display pledco [pledco.com]

Lots of folks forget WinXP administrator passwords (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950681)

Friends of friends often call me about computer problems, and don't know their admin password. They set it when they turn on the box the first time, and forget it. So if it was something like this, I'd actually believe it. If it was something she used every day, I'd be more skeptical. Although, I've heard of folks who temporarily forgot stuff due to traumatic shock. Maybe being in court has wigged her out?

There is one proven judicial method and means to find out if she really forgot it. It's aquatic with a board, but it is not surfing. And definitely no fun.

Re:Lots of folks forget WinXP administrator passwo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950863)

If it was something she used every day, I'd be more skeptical.

I'm sure any student-facing IT admin at universities can attest to the sudden increase in password resets after semester breaks. Passwords are "use it or lose it"; unless you choose something horribly weak like your birthday or favorite colour.

not a sterling example (4, Informative)

parshimers (1416291) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950699)

she revealed that she, and only she, knew the password to the hard drive over the phone. so her claims she "forgot" are not very plausible. if she hadn't done that, i seriously doubt she would be in this predicament.

Re:not a sterling example (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950899)

Not really, we rarely 'remember' that we have forgotten something until we try to recall it.

"Don't worry, I know the combination!", *beep* *boop* *beep* *bip* *bip*, "Oh CRAP!" Related phrase "I'd remember if you hadn't asked me!".

Re:not a sterling example (5, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950907)

I was the only person to know the password to my old computer's login - no longer have any idea what it was. I figure I will just reformat it or bypass the login if I have a need to use it.

However, if it was encrypted, I would currently have a legal timebomb sitting on my desk. This is not right and is clearly unconstitutional. Dressing up the matter does not change that.

Implication (1)

ironman_one (520863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950711)

Don't this implicate that police now can jail anyone as they like? Just generate a random file and demand that the accused shall provide a "decyption key". If not they can be held and jailed for contempt?

Re:Implication (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950745)

Don't this implicate that police now can jail anyone as they like? Just generate a random file and demand that the accused shall provide a "decyption key". If not they can be held and jailed for contempt?

1. It is and always was possible for a police officer to be a criminal, and a criminal police officer could always forge evidence against you. Nothing new.

2. The police would not only have to generate a random file, they would also have to convince a judge to give them a warrant with a good reason to search that particular file; a concrete reason why it would be likely that this file holds evidence. And the reason would have to be good enough not only to convince the judge who signs the warrant, but also the judge in the court case, with your lawyer present.

Wisdom follows, pay attention! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950719)

The password is sodium-amital.

That judge belongs behind bars. (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950787)

The fifth amendment is perfectly clear, and he's violated it.

-jcr

Wouldnt it be great.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950813)

.....if she finally provided the password only for it to decrypt a bundle of further encrypted files.

this is why I don't believe in Crypto (alt. below) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950815)

This is why I don't believe in cryptography. There is an alternative.

The key thing is to remember that usually, what you want to protect is not so much the existence of the information itself, but rather its connection to you. The best work-around is to simply use computers that aren't connected to you.

Re:this is why I don't believe in Crypto (alt. bel (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950993)

The best work-around is to simply use computers that aren't connected to you.

Not an easy thing to do.

Memories degrade over time (2, Interesting)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950865)

...so if they throw her in jail for contempt, then doesn't the likelihood of her being able to remember the password decrease over the time of her incarceration, and with it, her ability to comply with the judges orders? If she rides it out for a few months, then isn't her inability to recall her password more credible? I think what this case demonstrates, is the need for a duress password. Enter it and bam. Unrecoverably locked. Then it would be for the prosecution to prove that you deliberately destroyed evidence.

Can we make a genuinely destructible password? (1)

Liambp (1565081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950869)

In the olden days folks had to eat their notebook pages or hastily burn them as the secret police were knocking on the door. Nowadays that information is likely to be stored in encrypted files and event the best passwords are susceptible to the judicious application of baseball bats. Is it possible to come up with a genuinely destructible password that can be quickly and discretely destroyed forever. My best guess is some kind of keyfile but how could you be sure to delete it in a manner that couldn't be reconstructed?

What if the content is no longer retrievable (1)

Xoc-S (645831) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950983)

What if through some (magical) combination of hardware and software, after say two months, if you didn't log in, the contents became completely irretrievable? Then if you were arrested, you only had to hold out for two months before they would have to release you. Contempt of court means that they can only hold you while you can possibly give them what they need. If it is impossible for you to comply, which would be true after two months, they have to charge you with something else (obstruction of justice?) or release you.

Use USB dongles! (2)

batistuta (1794636) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950885)

If I really had something to hide, I'd use key files on a very old USB dongle (128 MB dongle or so). Truecrypt and Bitlocker support this. Then police will most likely raid your house during this whole action. But even if not, when asked to provide the key I'd simply say "this was in a USB dongle. It was laying on my table, so now you tell me where you've put it after messing up my whole house". Or "I had it with me and after my spontaneous arrest I had no idea where you made me forget it". Police might eventually find the donlge, but if they ask what that is, I'd say "that was some old key, no idea for what or what the decryption password is. The key you are looking for was on a new dongle.

Thing is, it is easy to doubt that you know something. But you can get naked and show that you don't have anything hidden between your legs.

"No self-incrimination" (3, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950887)

I wonder if the "no self-incrimination" clauses could help here.

I am innocent of the allegations.
But my HD contains files which might incriminate me in ways not covered by the claims of prosecution.
By giving the password, I would open myself to prosecution on issues the prosecutor has no clue about.
Therefore I refuse confession that would cause self-incrimination.

Contempt of the US Constitution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950889)

The judge is in contempt of the US Constitution.
This is as good any way to start a civil war.
After all DHS said, anyone supporting the Constitution is a fucking terrorist.

Would be plausible (5, Informative)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950919)

The laptop was seized in 2010, the order to decrypt is from 2012. I have passwords long enough that I will have trouble remembering them after 2-3 months of not using them. (Happens very rarely.) Not using them for over a year could well make me unable to remember them at all. So I would consider this a real possibility. Not absolute certain, of course, but credible enough that asserting she does still know the password after not having used it for this long would be an unfair disadvantage to her, as she fundamentally cannot prove she does not remember it.

Now the way around this for future cases is key-escrow or requiring everybody to write down their passwords, with the attached huge negative effects. In any sane legislation you can just refuse to give a password. I am amazed that in the self-proclaimed "land of the free" this does not seem to be the case and hope this will just turn out to be a judge that does not understand the issue and will get fixed permanently by a higher court.

I sympathise (1)

peawormsworth (1575267) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950933)

Ive been playing with LUKS full disk encryption for a long time before it became a standard install option on the alternate Ubuntu. I must have about 20 encrypted operating system installs on SD cards. I know for a fact that I do not know the passwords for many of these systems sitting in a cabinet. There is some truth to the defence that one can forget passwords. One time I accidentally deleted the luks passphrase from an active operating system. That was bad because I had family pictures on that one I really wanted to keep. In all these cases, I could be just as liable as this defendant. I dont think the courts should be able to assume that memory is always a selective choice. People do forget and the courts just have to find a way to "trick" it out of her if they believe she is lying. Like installing hidden software to monitor keystrokes or otherwise just accept that there is some evidence that just may be to difficult to retrieve.
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