UK Court throws out NCA bid to make Lauri Love handover encryption keys

NCA’s bid to make Lauri Love hand over the password for encrypted files rejected by UK court

The FBI equivalent of United Kingdom, NCA had launched a ferocious court battle to make Lauri Love to hand over the passwords to encrypted files on his data storage devices. Today, an UK court threw the case against Love and blasted NCA for using extra-constitutional means to get what it wanted.

Lauri Love, a 31 year old British/Finnish activist, was arrested in UK over hacking charges. The US is attempting to extradite Lauri Love, 31, on charges of hacking into the US Army, Nasa and US Federal Reserve networks.

During his arrest, NCA had seized the computers from his home in Stradishall, Suffolk, in October 2013. NCA feels that Love may have important information stored in the encrypted disks on the computers which may help them in hacking the case. However, Love approached the court to ask NCA return his computers and deter them from unlocking his computers.

He was granted a small victory today at Westminster Magistrates Court when the judge ruled he didn’t have to reveal the passwords to encrypted files as part of his request for return of data storage devices.

Love was petitioning the court for the return of six data storage devices and the NCA was arguing that he should have to provide the keys to unlock encrypted data on the devices before it would return them to him.

The NCA seized the hard drives when they searched his parents’ house, where he lived, in October 2013 in connection with an investigation under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Following the search, Love was placed on bail pending an investigation. When the bail ended in July 2014, with no further action being taken by the NCA, the NCA returned most of the items it had seized except for six hard drives.

The NCA sought to compel Love to reveal the encryption keys under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) but didn’t pursue this approach when Love replied that he had nothing to tell them.

At issue today was whether the NCA could use court procedures – namely the petition for the return of the hard drives under the Police Property Act 1897 – to get a court order for Love to reveal the passwords.

Delivering her judgment at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Nina Tempia said the NCA should have used the normal police powers to obtain the information.

“I’m not granting the application because, to obtain the information sought, the correct procedure to use – as the NCA did two-and-a-half years ago – is RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) and the inherent safeguards incorporated thereafter,” she said.

She added the courts should not use their case management powers to “circumnavigate” existing laws and the safeguards they carry.

Love faces extradition hearings from three jurisdictions in the US in June.

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