Man jailed indefinitely for refusing to decrypt hard drives

A suspect in child sex abuse case jailed indefinitely for refusing to decrypt his hard drives

A Philadelphia man suspected of possessing child sexual abuse images has been in jail for seven months and counting after being found in contempt of a court order demanding that he decrypt two password-protected hard drives.

Surprisingly, the former Philadelphia Police Department sergeant, has not been charged of  child sex abuse crime. He remains in jailed in Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center for steadfastedly refusing to unlock two drives encrypted with Apple’s FileVault software. The authorities believe that that suspect’s hard drive is filled with child abuse images and hope to nail him. The man is to remain jailed “until such time that he fully complies” with the decryption order.

The case once again highlights the extent to which the authorities are going to crack encrypted devices. In the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c case, the FBI challenged Apple into decrypting the shooters iPhone in a court. FBI dropped that case after they had paid a reported $1 million for a hack.

The authorities cited a 1789 law known as the All Writs Act to compel (PDF) the suspect to decrypt two hard drives it believes contain images of child sex abuse. The defence says that “compelling the target of a criminal investigation to recall and divulge an encryption passcode transgresses the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”

The Supreme Court has never addressed the compelled decryption issue. But Donoghue says the court came close in 2000 when it said a suspect cannot be forced “to disclose the sequence of numbers that will open a combination lock.” A federal appeals court ruled in 2012, however, that a bank-fraud defendant must decrypt her laptop, but the ruling wasn’t enforced as the authorities obtained the password elsewhere.

It remains to be seen how long the suspect stays in jail or he finally yields to the authorities and decrypts the two hard drives for them.

Resource : Ars Technica.

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