Police force more suspects to give up crypto keys
Password powers practised
Police have expanded their use of powers to force suspects to decrypt files by 50 per cent in the last year, figures released today reveal.
In the 12 months to March 31 this year, government officials approved 38 notices under Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, compared to 26 in the previous year.
The powers, known as section 49 notices, require suspects to hand over passwords or make files intelligible to investigators on threat of a two-year jail sentence, or five years where national security is concerned.
As well as obtaining more section 49 notices, police also expanded the range of crimes they were used to investigate.
In 2008/09 they were served in relation to counter-terrorism, possession of indecent images of children and "domestic extremism" (a case involving activist attacks on animal testing labs). In the last 12 months, however, RIPA Part III was used to demand decryption in cases of insider dealing, illegal broadcasting, theft, excise duty evasion and aggravated burglary, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Christopher Rose said in his annual report.
Investigations into indecent images of children remained the "main reason" section 49 notices were served, he added.
Of the 17 notices obtained this year that have so far been served, six suspects complied and seven did not. The remainder are still being processed. One person suspected of possessing indecent images of children has been convicted for failing to hand over passwords.
The compliance rate was up on last year, the first full year since the powers were activated, when 11 out of 15 suspects served with a section 49 notice did not make their files intelligible to investigators.
Sir Christopher noted the discrepancy between 38 approvals granted by the National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC) and the number of notices actually served. NTAC is a unit at GCHQ, the Cheltenham code-breaking agency.
"Notices, once approved, should be served without delay," Sir Christopher said. "If delays continue, I will require an explanation."
Last year The Register reported the case of the first man known to have been jailed for failing to hand over encryption keys to the police. "JFL" was a schizophrenic software developer initially charged with explosives offences that were later dropped. He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act during his prison sentence. ®
we used to have rights
Such as innocent until proven guilty and the right to silence. The RIPA obligation to handover keys violates these 2 principles by obliging a suspect to cooperate in the collection of evidence for the purpose of their own prosecution.
The possibility that a few guilty people might be locked up on account of this who otherwise wouldn't be doesn't justify locking up otherwise innocent people who refuse to cooperate in this procedure. How long it will take a case of someone who is innocent and does not cooperate to get before the European Court of Human Rights based on violation of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights, section 8 right to privacy and section 6 right to a fair trial) is an open question.
If you are a pedo but the only crime they can actually pin on you is "Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act" because all the evidence they have is encrypted then from their point of view its better to go down for 2 years for that than fess up and go to prison and get the shit kicked out of you every day for being a pedo.
Still this opens up the way for someone to maliciously plant an encypted file on someones pc then report them that they may be a kiddy fiddler. the innocent person gets arrested and cant give up the encryption keys as they don't have them, and could get 2 years for it.
Ive downloaded some files from forums that were hosted on rapidshare before now that were pass protected zips and dont necessarily remember exactly which forum and which post has the password now.
This unstoppable modern inquisition...
What a strange thing that courts, police and governments should exercise quite so much punitive pressure on anyone for looking at mere photos, even to the point now, it seems, of forcing anyone accused of such an epoch-shattering crime to damn themselves for refusing to incriminate themselves.
Justice gets suspended for this crimen exceptum. Normal rules no longer apply - so we take away a person's right to not incriminate themselves and put them in prison anyway, safe in the knowledge that anyone going before a court charged with even looking at 'indecent' images stands virtually no chance of a fair outcome. You do know that, right? That it's not the prosecution that does the damage, but the mere accusation? That's what will ruin your life - that's how it's been intended, by police, courts and advocates, from the start. The prosecution is a mere formality - a necessary, if expensive, process, but not really the point.
You quite literally cannot win, once you become an Accused. The Maleificarum has stitched you up good. Confess and be damned - forever - or refuse to cooperate and be damned - forever - because the police know that the accusation IS the punishment and THAT's what will follow you around forever, while being forced to the sign the SoR is merely the Maleificarum's way of continuing to put it's boot into your face on a regular basis, just for the hell of it, while ensuring you remain jobless, homeless and socially excluded for the rest of your life. 'Rehabilitation'? That's just some people talking.
One hundred years from now, future generations will hold their heads in shame at such wretched, medieval standards of 'justice' practiced by allegedly liberal, progressive societies and perhaps the countless lives ruined by a willfully spiteful modern inquisition might at last find some measure of apology - too late for them, but perhaps enough of a warning for future generations. Perhaps.
For now, the moral panic knows no bounds - not even those of it's own laws. Front doors will be kicked down in the wee small hours by heavily armored policemen in full riot gear (and before the cameras of an invited press, no doubt) to catch these terrible, seemingly unstoppable threats to the very fabric of our apparently highly corruptible and entirely fragile society. No expense must be spared, no law too sacrosanct that it cannot be bent or broken to satiate the voracious appetite of this unstoppable modern inquisition.