Both the Federal Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee heard today from FBI Director James Comey, and from Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, that they need a backdoor (or a “front door”, as Comey calls it) that allows them to decrypt encrypted email and messages in order to fight terrorism.
A Federal court ruling this week by Judge Robert Blackburn, of Peyton, Colorado, says that you can be ordered by the court to provide the password to decrypt encrypted data, or face contempt of court, and that being forced to reveal your passphrase does not violate the Fifth Amendment (the 5th Amendent includes, among other things, the right against self-incrimination). In the ruling, Judge Blackburn ordered Ramona Fricosu, whose laptop hard drive is encrypted with PGP, and who is charged with taking part in a mortgage scam, including charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering, to decrypt her hard drive or face, among other sanctions, contempt of court.
If Sebastian Boucher thought that encryping the data on his hard drive would protect him from prying eyes, he may have been right. But if the Derry, New Hampshire resident, who is originally from Canada, thought that it would protect his 5th Amendment right against self incrimination, he may have another think coming.
Under a law which takes effect next week, Nevada businesses must start encrypting their email, or face a penalty.