Feeds

Child porn suspect ordered to decrypt own hard drive

Self-decryption not self-incrimination

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

In a move sure to stoke debates over constitutional protections against self-incrimination in the digital age, a federal judge has ordered a child porn suspect to decrypt his hard drive so prosecutors can inspect its contents.

In a ruling issued last month, US District Judge William Sessions in Vermont ruled criminal defendant Sebastien Boucher does not have a constitutional right to keep the files encrypted. The ruling reversed an earlier decision by a federal magistrate that said forcing Boucher to enter his password into his laptop would violate his Fifth-Amendment rights against self incrimination. Boucher's attorney is appealing Sessions's ruling, according to CNET News, which reported the story earlier.

The case is believed to be one of the first times a court has decided whether the Fifth Amendment bars prosecutors from forcing a criminal defendant to surrender a computer password. It's well settled that suspects must turn over keys if they're deemed relevant to a criminal case. Compelling a defendant to turn over the combination to a safe, on the other hand, has generally been considered off limits because it would "convey the contents of one's mind," an act that's tantamount to testifying, Magistrate Judge Jerome J. Niedermeier wrote in a November ruling in the case.

Boucher was arrested in late 2006 while entering the US from Canada when border agents claimed they found images of child pornography on his laptop. Boucher waived his Miranda rights and allegedly told the agents he may have downloaded child pornography. The laptop was then shut down.

Nine days later, authorities armed with a subpoena tried to access the pictures again and this time were unable to inspect the hard drive's contents because it was protected by encryption software from PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy.

Sessions's ruling came after prosecutors narrowed earlier requests and said they only wanted him to decrypt the hard drive contents before a grand jury, apparently by typing in his passphrase in their presence. Sessions reached his decision after concluding the act of producing an unencrypted version of the hard drive wasn't necessary to authenticate its contents, presumably based on Boucher's statements to border agents. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.