Judge Rules In Favor Of Decryption

A woman accused of real-estate fraud must turn in unencrypted copy of a hard drive, despite Fifth Amendment protest

Dark Reading Staff, Dark Reading

January 24, 2012

1 Min Read

A judge has ruled that a Colorado woman accused by federal authorities of real estate fraud must surrender a copy of her laptop's hard drive to prosecutors, even though the drive is protected with full-disk encryption software.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blackburn came Monday after the woman, Ramona Fricosu (aka Ramona Smith), had argued that being forced to produce the password would have violated her right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.

FBI agents had seized three desktops and three laptops during a search of the house where Fricosu was living with her mother and two children. Only one of the computers, a Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop, was protected by full-disk encryption, and agents couldn't access its contents. Accordingly, prosecutors sought a warrant to search the computer, based on evidence that Fricosu owned it. Notably, agents found the laptop in her bedroom. Furthermore, the FBI agent who studied the computer said that the encryption screen identified the laptop as "RS.WORKGROUP.Ramona," and noted that the latter part of the name would have been selected by the operating system by default, based on information that had been used to configure the PC.

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Dark Reading Staff

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