Feds Decrypt Defendant's Laptop Without Her Permission

Illustration for article titled Feds Decrypt Defendants Laptop Without Her Permission

Remember the defendant in that fraud case who claimed to have forgotten the password for her encrypted laptop? Well, the Feds have gone ahead and cracked it right open, without her permission.

The move ends what has been a lengthy legal battle, and makes a judge's order that the defendant unlock the laptop herself somewhat of a moot point, reports Threat Level.


The laptop was originally seized from defendant Ramona Fricosu in 2010 while authorities were investigating alleged mortgage fraud. The battle to get Fricosu to provide the password for the laptop has been a long, hard slog, as current legislation has never faced this problem in the past.

According to Fricosu's attorney, authorities "must have used or found successful one of the passwords the co-defendant provided them". He added that a copy of the information discovered on the drive was delivered to him on Tuesday.


The move flies in the face of a decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated that demanding the password for an encrypted hard drive is akin to asking for the combination to a safe: off limits and the equivalent of forcing testimony. [Threat Level; Image: Tatiana Popova / Shutterstock]

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LOL, for a second, I thought they broke the encryption. I guess they just asked someone else for the password and got in. I guess adding to her stupidity (first she said she won't give it, then she changed her story to she forgot), someone else had the password and was willing to cave in.

For those who aren't read up: The feds were already given the 'OK' to take and search the laptop during the raid of her house. They seized the equipment, but they could not get past the encryption of the laptop. In any similar situation, the police can say "Give us the key or we'll break the door down," but they cannot force you to reveal the key under the 5th amendment...thus, second option, break the door down.

Half-way decent encryption cannot be broken in a time-friendly manner, possibly, not in her lifetime. Judge got impatient and threatened to step on her 5th amendment rights if she didn't give the key. Either way, the password was retrieved and no one's rights were stepped on. She will be prosecuted based on those findings.