Computing

Encrypting Your Hard Drive No Longer Works Against US Federal Prosecution

Sometimes common “street smarts” fail you. Like when you ask the guy who’s selling you drugs if he’s a cop. Or when you encrypt your hard drive and refuse to unlock it for prosecutors while citing the self-incriminating clause of the Fifth Amendment.

A federal court judge has just ruled that being forced to decrypt one’s hard drive during prosecution does not violate the defendants’s Fifth Amendment rights. The ruling stems from a case against Ramona Fricosu, who is charged with mortgage fraud. She has refused to decrypt the contents of her hard drive arguing that doing so would require her to essentially testify against herself.

Nuh-uh, said judge Robert Blackburn, citing an earlier ruling against one Sebastien Boucher. In that case, the courts decided that, while Boucher’s encryption password was certainly protected, the information on his drive could be considered evidence in the case and was therefore not subject to the same liberties.

“I find and conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer,” Blackburn wrote in his opinion today. He also cited the All Writs Act, a 1789 statute, could be invoked as well to force Fricosu’s compliance.

Friscosu has until February 21 to comply or face contempt of court charges. Geez, it’s getting to the point that your secrets are better left on microfilm in pumpkin patches rather than on your hard drive. [CNet via The Verge]

Image: Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock


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