01/24/2012

Judge orders Colo. woman to decrypt her hard drive

The laptop was seized from defendant Ramona Fricosu during a financial fraud investigation in 2010

By PoliceOne Staff

A federal judge ordered a woman to decrypt her hard drive so authorities could look for evidence to use against her in a criminal case.

Colorado U.S. District Judge Judge Robert Blackburn gave the order Monday to a woman in Peyton, Colo. accused of bank fraud in 2010, according to CNN. Ramona Fricosu unsuccessfully argued that turning off the disk encryption option — bult-in to many Windows, Mac OS and Linux computers — violates protection against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.

"I conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer," Blackburn ruled. Authorities obtained the computer with a search warrant but said cracking the encryption could "require significant resources and may harm the subject's computer."

According to Blackburn, a jailhouse recording of the defendant exists, and he said it is evidence the laptop could contain information relevant to the case, though he added the government is prevented "from using Ms. Fricosu's act of production of the unencrypted hard drive against her in any prosecution."

Fricosu has until February 21 to surrender an unencrypted hard drive.

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