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Full Disk Encryption Hard For Law Enforcement To Crack 575

Posted by timothy
from the you-say-problem-I-say-potato dept.
If you'd rather keep your data private, take heart: disk encryption is a lot harder to break than techno-thriller movies and TV shows make it out to be, to the chagrin of some branches of law enforcement. MrSeb writes with word of a paper titled "The growing impact of full disk encryption on digital forensics" [abstract here to paywalled article] that illustrates just how difficult it is. According to the paper, co-authored by a member of US-CERT, "[T]here are three main problems with full disk encryption (FDE): First, evidence-gathering goons can turn off the computer (for transportation) without realizing it's encrypted, and thus can't get back at the data (unless the arrestee gives up his password, which he doesn't have to do); second, if the analysis team doesn't know that the disk is encrypted, it can waste hours trying to read something that's ultimately unreadable; and finally, in the case of hardware-level disk encryption, tampering with the device can trigger self-destruction of the data. The paper does go on to suggest some ways to ameliorate these issues, but ultimately the researchers aren't hopeful: 'Research is needed to develop new techniques and technology for breaking or bypassing full disk encryption.'"
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Full Disk Encryption Hard For Law Enforcement To Crack

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:14PM (#38110366)

    I wish this was the case in the UK, any encryption keys have to be handed over when asked by the police or .Gov

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:15PM (#38110384)

      So use TrueCrypt and a hidden volume. Give them the keys to your outer volume. It mounts and they can browse your collection of Lolcats. Let them prove that's not what they were looking for.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:21PM (#38110428)

        If they know it's a truecrypt drive, they probably would suspect that there's another partition so will try and charge you anyway for withholding.

        So basically they make your life hell for a year till charges are dropped and would use any little excuse to question & detain you.

        • by durrr (1316311) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:29PM (#38110484)
          I haven't bothered with hidden partitions, yet. Does it mean I'm subject to legal punishment for not using this feature and thus lacking a password to give to law enforcement so they can take part of my extensive collection of crustacean pornography?

          And if that, then what happens when truecrypt suddenly accepts multiple hidden partitions or other more complex schemes? Everyone goes to jail because lawmakers somehow ascended beyond full retard?
        • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:09PM (#38110746)
          In practice, the headaches that would ensue from widespread use of deniable encryption would cause one of two outcomes:
          1. Police would stop asking for secret keys, or only ask for a short period of time, because they would have no way of knowing whether or not they have the true secret.
          2. The system would be outlawed.

          Countries that respect and protect a right to free speech would not outlaw such a system, but unfortunately such countries are few and far between. Deniable encryption encryption works in theory, but in practice the existence of non-deniable encryption makes it hard for people to claim that they are innocent users of a deniable encryption system. While there are innocent uses of such a system (perhaps your business secrets are so valuable that being tortured for them is not beyond the realm of possibility) they are few and far between; deniable encryption is tool for protecting your data from a government, and for all their talk about China and Iran, most western governments are not interested in having citizens who can secure their communications and data from police investigations.

          • by izomiac (815208) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:42PM (#38110940) Homepage
            I figured that plausible deniability applies both ways. You deny that you have any more hidden volumes, they deny that you've given them all relevant passwords. In the UK that means running afoul of that law. In less kind parts of the world (or society) that means you will be tortured until you give up the "real" password, repeated ad infinitum as there's no way to determine the number of hidden volumes. Sucks to be you if what they're looking for doesn't exist, there's no way for you to prove that and break the cycle.

            IMHO, plausibly deniability is for reasonable and less motivated opponents (e.g. some family members). If you're worried about a less savory type, you need to visibly destroy the data. E.g., put it on RAM disks that will shut down if someone opens your closet door and doesn't type the correct code in 30 seconds. You'll be charged with destruction of evidence in a courtroom, and presumed guilty elsewhere, but it's a calculated risk. Wiping the header that is used to convert your password into the actual crypto key is another possibility that potentially allows for later recovery, but your opponent may assume that as well.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Chris Mattern (191822)

              there's no way to determine the number of hidden volumes.

              Am I missing something here? The physical disk has a known, fixed size. When the size of all the volumes you have discovered (including their free space) add up to the size of the physical disk, you've found everything.

              • by networkBoy (774728) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:07PM (#38113190) Homepage Journal

                the outer volume, when mounted in "unsafe" mode uses the entire disk partition, thus there are three ways to log into a TC volume with a hidden partition:

                Into hidden volume, with hidden password: see hidden volume, outer volume as unavailable.
                into outer volume, with both outer and hidden password: outer volume mounts, hidden volume shows as unavailable.
                into outer volume, with outer password only: outer volume mounts entire space as one volume, all space available, contents of hidden volume may be overwritten, but all space appears consumed.

                in practice to make the outer volume look valid you should place sensitive info there:
                tax returns for clients if you are a CPA (while the cooked books are on the hidden volume).
                "normal" porn if you are a married person (while the CP is on the hidden volume).
                company confidential design docs if you are an engineer (while the hidden volume contains competitor trade secret info).
                etc.
                The point being that you should make the outer volume both useful and not small so that it will have data churn.

                Also, to defeat casual perusal of your filesystem by random people who may access your computer I am fond of storing my truecrypt volumes as alternate data streams/metadata to normal files. I have a 500 gig drive with a single mp3 on it that is only 3 min long, yet the disk is full :)
                -nB

        • by mSparks43 (757109) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:40PM (#38110928) Homepage Journal

          From the actual paper (worth reading if you have academic access):

          Challenges can also arise when a defendant appears to be cooperative. For instance, the defendant may provide incorrect decryption details but the defense may claim that the encrypted container was damaged in some manner, which was why it would not open.

          They also list several court cases where truecrypt FDE rendered the machines inaccessible many years after the fact.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:02PM (#38111066)

          I have a great little program that produces random numbers out of the random.data file.
          Funny thing is, truecrypt thinks it's a partition...

      • by 228e2 (934443)
        That wont work if they were doing any kind of listening/tapping and see you havent accessed any file on said Lolcat volume since you last set it up 4 months ago. Well, they wont even have to have listening data to figure that out.
      • by Dogbertius (1333565) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:26PM (#38110830)
        Sadly, the notion of "plausible deniability" works both ways. If they (ie: the authorities) are aware it is a TrueCrypt volume, they can just demand you hand over the passwords for the inner and outer volumes. If you provide just one key (ie: the password for the outer volume that contains junk you don't care about), and you are in a country that demonstrates little to no respect for civil rights, they could very well jail you, even if you aren't using a hidden volume.

        Secondly, the authorities demanding you hand over the key (strangely enough) isn't covered under fifth amendment rights, so again, they can demand you hand over the keys, or you could be jailed almost indefinitely.

        Finally, there are some interesting articles by Bruce Schneier on alternate means of incrimination. www.schneier.com/paper-truecrypt-dfs.pdf

        In short, there are many ways to give a judge the idea that the use of a hidden volume is likely (ie: check path histories for previously opened files, check temp folders, etc). Not only would these indicate the possibility of a hidden volume, but some files that were meant to be encrypted may be 100% available (eg: Microsoft Word makes temporary backups of files in your %APPDATA% folders in case it crashes and you want to recover your work; as one example). Unless one is very diligent and knows what he/she is doing with respect to encrypting data, it would seem the only safe method is to encrypt the entire disk and boot off of it exclusively, all while keeping the machine itself disconnected from the internet to avoid hacking attempts, and locked in massive safe so the authorities don't install a keylogger (application or physical device) or start taking snapshots of your disk daily to aid in cracking the password.

        You may be able to secure your data, but with multiple means of data accidentally being leaked due to the OS or various applications used in day-to-day life, along with unscrupulous policing agencies allowed to overrule fundamental civil rights, it is likely that one will ultimately lose their data and/or freedom either way.
        • As I understand it, the fifth amendment does not apply if you've written the key down, if it is only in your mind then you should be fine, and failing that you can forget the key.

      • by fluffy99 (870997) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:41PM (#38111364)

        Unfortunately, it's not difficult to look at the OS for evidence that the hidden partition exists. Even if they don't realize its a truecrypt hidden volume, they might start asking for usb drives that you haven't turned over.

        www.schneier.com/paper-truecrypt-dfs.pdf

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:33PM (#38110524) Journal
      It may not help the poor bastard being asked for them; but, depending on the implementation, delivering the keys may simply not be possible.

      It takes a pretty exceptional human to actually remember a useful crypto key, so most systems store the key for you and depend on a password, passphrase, and/or some sort of hardware device to grant access to the key. If the system that actually stores the crypto key is designed to resist tampering, there are a reasonable number of initial attempts at forensics that might trip tamper detection and cause the key to be wiped, irrevocably.

      Your classier cryptographic coprocessor modules offer such tamper resistance, and the enthusiasm of DRM peddlers and corporate customers who have backups; but really, really, hate data-breach stories will likely continue to push it further down into cheaper and more common business desktops and laptops.

      (Even the TPMs of today may be pretty tricky to subvert without pissing them off, though I don't think that they are required to adhere to the same anti-tamper standards as the more serious hardware security modules).
      • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:38PM (#38110908) Journal

        It takes a pretty exceptional human to actually remember a useful crypto key

        Not really. How hard is to remember a paragraph from your favorite novel or lyrics from a popular song. It's even better if you *mis-remember* the quote/lyrics so that you're the only one who would come up with the result even if someone tried to brute force the key by scanning all your books and listening to all your music.

        Perhaps something like:
        While the music played you worked by candle light, those San Francisco nights - you were the best in town, Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl, you turned it on the world, that's when you turned the world around

        Or maybe:
        I was alone I took a ride, I didn't know what I would find there. Another road where maybe I could see another kind of mind there. ooh and I suddenly see you, ooh did I tell you I need you? Every single day of my life.

        Try and brute force those keys. Using punctuation makes it even harder. And these are the first verses to well known songs. Use the third verse of an obscure song (one you don't like would be even better). The music makes it much easier to remember and just about anyone can remember songs/lyrics.

        Some people just have zero imagination. Sigh!

        • by MagicM (85041)

          It's even better if you *mis-remember* the quote/lyrics

          Who knew that kissthisguy.com [kissthisguy.com] would become the #1 password dictionary.

        • by DamnStupidElf (649844) <Fingolfin@linuxmail.org> on Saturday November 19, 2011 @08:47PM (#38112272)
          It's obviously foolish to use public text verbatim as a key. Common Crawl [commoncrawl.org] has a 40 TB dataset that costs approximately $150 to MapReduce on EC2. Any key that happens to be a (reasonably short, say under 1KB) substring of that data costs $150 to break. Any key within a short hamming distance of a substring in that database costs roughly 2^hamming_distance more to break; two changed bytes is only worth $600. I imagine that large organizations who care have much larger databases including the text of most published books. It's such an obvious idea and until you realize that attackers have access to all the public source data that you do it sounds like a good idea to just pick a random string from a book to use as a passphrase. Don't kid yourself; no matter how obscure or unpopular a song is there will be lyrics for it somewhere on the Internet, not to mention in published books.

          You can take a published string and make it a reasonably secure passphrase by adding enough entropy to it, but you still have to remember the entropy that you've added. Why not just start with a diceware passphrase and memorize the entropy directly?
    • by sunderland56 (621843) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:12PM (#38110760)
      We need an encryption package that has *two* passwords:
      • One normal one that decrypts as usual;
      • A second one that formats the disk and installs a standard version of Windows

      You use password #1, but if arrested you give up password #2.

      • by sco08y (615665) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:16PM (#38110782)

        We need an encryption package that has *two* passwords:

        • One normal one that decrypts as usual;
        • A second one that formats the disk and installs a standard version of Windows

        You use password #1, but if arrested you give up password #2.

        That's brilliant, but how do you get the police to use this software? Especially after they've pulled the drive out and plugged it into their forensics kit?

        • If they leave the drive in the laptop, obviously no issue. It would solve the XKCD lead pipe problem.

          If the encryption was in hardware (on the drive controller), also no issue.

          *Any* solution will not get around pulling out the hard drive, swapping its controller, and running forensics - but if the key/algorithm is sufficiently strong it would take them a while. The thing is that most computer crime labs try the easy things first - so put in a booby trap at one of the easy steps.
      • by tsotha (720379)
        Cops aren't that stupid. The first thing they do when they get your drive is copy it, and all the tinkering gets done on the copy.
    • by mikael (484) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:02PM (#38111068)

      These days, the disk controller for the disk drive is logically tied to the hard disk drive platter itself, by an encryption key. If you tried swapping round the controllers to repair the disk drive, that wouldn't work as the encryption keys are different.
      You wouldn't even get the disk information sector back.

    • by theedgeofoblivious (2474916) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:44PM (#38111392)

      Or what?

      They'll prosecute you for not giving them your password?

      If they had enough evidence that they were able to get a search warrant to get the data on your computer, you were probably already about to be prosecuted for something pretty substantial.

      If you had a choice between being prosecuted for not giving them your password or being prosecuted for whatever else you were about to be prosecuted for, I expect that in most cases you'd want to be prosecuted for not giving them your password.

      The government can threaten you with an alternative prosecution, but they can never actually compel you to give up your password.

    • by Teun (17872) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:46PM (#38111418) Homepage
      It's about time some Brit went to the European Court of Human Rights, according to most legal opinion you don't have to incriminate yourself.
  • by TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:14PM (#38110370)

    well we [the industry] will be just happy selling encryption with the tagline: so secure - no one can break it - except your average McForensic dude with a software package you can torrent. See, secure!

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:24PM (#38110826)

      well we [the industry] will be just happy selling encryption with the tagline: so secure - no one can break it - except your average McForensic dude with a software package you can torrent. See, secure!

      More like the software industry wants to remain friendly with the Department of Justice, and will gladly push a DoJ-approved cryptosystem on their customers unless their customers start jumping ship. Remember the clipper chip and how a certain large telecom was prepared to play along?

    • by cusco (717999)
      I work with a couple of police departments, and I'd be surprised if any of them could even crack a password, much less decrypt a volume. Sure, there are guys in the IT department that could do it, but they're not "real" police officers so they'd never be allowed to examine evidence. Apparently, at least according to the boys in blue, crimes should only be allowed to be solved by guys who carry guns. Want to see a cop's head explode? Explain to him that you support neighborhood justice groups (which they
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:07PM (#38111112) Journal

        Clearly these police departments are not familiar with using VisualBasic to make a GUI.

      • Re:"more research?" (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @09:23PM (#38112508)

        want to see a lawyer's head explode?

        (we all do. read on...)

        tell them you support jury nullification.

        its almost like telling an electrical repairman that there ARE user-repairable parts inside and that that label is pure hogwash.

        lawyers and judges are so smug sure that 'judging guilt' is a hard job, to be left only to those 'qualified'.

        the thing is, the so-called pros have done such a bad job over the last few decades, I can't believe that even a random roll of dice would be worse for carrying out justice. perhaps that would even be an upgrade. getting 50/50 would probably BE an upgrade over what we have now.

        the fact that regular people are taken out of the loop is actually a safeguard that they are bypassing.

        but dare talk to a friendly lawyer about this and they'll likely bite your head off. and if you are in voire dire and dare tell anyone that you are even aware of what JN means, you are immediately dismissed as a juror. worse: if you don't let on during VD and then vote your concience, you can be jailed for contempt!

        all for following a legally allowed american principle; but one that has an unspoken 'do not admit to its existence' rule about nullification.

        see fija.org for more info. people should all know about this. its one of the best parts of our system, in fact!

        • by Fnord666 (889225) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:51PM (#38113516) Journal

          but dare talk to a friendly lawyer about this and they'll likely bite your head off. and if you are in voire dire and dare tell anyone that you are even aware of what JN means, you are immediately dismissed as a juror. worse: if you don't let on during VD and then vote your concience, you can be jailed for contempt!

          That's why I wear a "I Support Jury Nullification!" button to jury duty. I still get to work at the normal time on those days.

  • obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by dr.Flake (601029) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:16PM (#38110386)
    • by pla (258480)
      http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/security.png

      Fortunately, as bad as they've gotten, police in the US still try to maintain the facade that they count as the "good guys", at least to the extent that they don't (frequently) torture information out of people.

      Trick, cajole, threaten, inconvenience, stress, discomfit, and a whole host of other verbs that come just shy of it, but not quite outright torture yet.
  • To me.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UPZ (947916) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:16PM (#38110398)
    That doesn't sound like a problem at all. Technology that works as intended.
  • Giving up passwords (Score:5, Informative)

    by earthloop (449575) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:18PM (#38110406) Homepage

    (unless the arrestee gives up his password, which he doesn't have to do);

    In the UK he does [theregister.co.uk]. And people have been punished [theregister.co.uk] for not handing it over.

    • by bhtooefr (649901) <<gro.rfeoothb> <ta> <rfeoothb>> on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:25PM (#38110454) Homepage Journal

      Except he doesn't have to.

      He can be punished for not doing it, but there's no law of physics that FORCES him to give up the password.

      Hence why spies have cyanide pills and such - such that it then becomes impossible for them to even give up the password.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Hence why spies have cyanide pills and such - such that it then becomes impossible for them to even give up the password.

        My SSD is encrypted with AES in hardware. As I understand it, you only have to send one ATA command to the disk to tell it to generate a new key and thereby make the existing data unreadable to anyone.

        Personally I'd prefer a 'wipe key' button on my laptop to a cyanide pill in my teeth.

        • by icebike (68054) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:40PM (#38110930)

          My SSD is encrypted with AES in hardware. As I understand it, you only have to send one ATA command to the disk to tell it to generate a new key and thereby make the existing data unreadable to anyone.

          Personally I'd prefer a 'wipe key' button on my laptop to a cyanide pill in my teeth.

          Getting the oppertunity to send that one key is tricky if you are in handcuffs.

          Better to have a key you hand over after a suitable number of threats which does the new key generation. You can always blame the cops for being technological cavemen and damaging your computer. He who touches it last acquires all blame.

        • by fluffy99 (870997) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:33PM (#38111300)

          My SSD is encrypted with AES in hardware. .

          Depending on the brand, only the key is stored using AES. In many cases the actual data on the disk is encrypted with a weak encryption or even not at all. Full AES encryption of all the data would make the drive horribly slow.

          • Full AES encryption of all the data would make the drive horribly slow.

            Really? Considering that full 256-bit AES encryption of all the data in software, e.g. with LUKS, is not "horribly slow", even on relatively ancient CPUs, a drive with a dedicated AES chip should be able to do the same thing while remaining reasonably performant.

            Note that this does not mean that I would be surprised to hear that the designers cut corners, perhaps for cost reasons. I just don't see how it could be justified on a performance basis.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:42PM (#38110574) Journal

      (unless the arrestee gives up his password, which he doesn't have to do);

      In the UK he does [theregister.co.uk]. And people have been punished [theregister.co.uk] for not handing it over.

      Unfortunately for everybody, really, the potential 5-year RIPA sentence for refusing to disclose a key is crazy draconian as a threat to induce Joe Public to open every Turing-complete device in his entire life to the cops(after what is, no doubt, a impeccable judicial review); but it is substantially less scary than the sentence you might get for various serious crimes that the key might be hiding, along with any incentive provided by your criminal colleagues in favor of loyalty to the organization...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:13PM (#38110768)

      isn't the UK part of the same EU ?

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2006:0174:FIN:EN:HTML

      2.4. Privilege against self-incrimination
      The presumption of innocence includes the privilege against self-incrimination which is made up of the right of silence and not to be compelled to produce inculpating evidence. The maxim nemo tenetur prodere seipsum , (“no person is to be compelled to accuse himself”) applies. The accused may refuse to answer questions and to produce evidence. The ECtHR[24] held that, although not specifically mentioned in the ECHR, the privilege against self-incrimination is a generally recognised international standard which lies “at the heart of the notion of a fair procedure”. It protects the accused against improper compulsion by the authorities, thus reducing the risk of miscarriages of justice and embodying the equality of arms principle. The prosecution must prove its case without resort to evidence obtained through coercion or oppression. Security and public order cannot justify the suppression of these rights[25].They are linked rights, any compulsion to produce incriminating evidence being an infringement of the right of silence. The State infringed an accused’s right of silence when it sought to compel him to produce bank statements to customs investigators[26]. Coercion to co-operate with the authorities in the pre-trial process may infringe the privilege against self-incrimination and jeopardise the fairness of any subsequent hearing.

  • Anti-FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spudnic (32107) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:26PM (#38110468)

    So how are we to know that this isn't anti-FUD?

    "Yes, Citizen, your full disk encryption is just too much for us to crack. I guess you're in the clear."

    • Re:Anti-FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:59PM (#38110692)
      That is not how the police in America work. When they cannot crack a cryptosystem, they try to get it outlawed or prevent it from becoming mainstream, and then push for a system with a backdoor. When they manage to crack a system e.g. the Hushmail attack, they parade it around and declare that no matter what anyone does the police will be able to defeat it.

      If this sounds like Doublethink to you, perhaps you should take a look around and reconsider your views on whether it was Orwell or Huxley who was correct.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:30PM (#38110494)

    The encryption might be practically unbreakable but that doesn't help a lot. Around here police just break into homes to install hardware or software keyloggers. Sure, that may not be exactly legal for them to do, but they don't care because they know nothing will happen to them.

  • kind of the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Surt (22457) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @04:40PM (#38110562) Homepage Journal

    I mean ... what's the point of encryption that your foes, police or otherwise, can bypass?

  • by bmo (77928) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:31PM (#38110868)

    While I currently do not run full disk encryption on my laptop and I have never done anything to warrant arrest, I have thought about full disk encryption. Especially in these days of a growing police state, it is not my job to make your job easier. If the news stories keep going the way they are, I suspect that within the year, I will simply migrate over with strong encryption and that will be that.

    Because I do not like the increasingly adversarial and militarized role the police have been taking. I'm sure I'm not alone. While I do not wear tinfoil, the news events of late give me pause.

    --
    BMO - shiny side out.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:34PM (#38110876) Homepage Journal

    Use biometrics instead of a password.

    Your system unlocks via your foreign friend's iris, which you get via his smartphone's camera.

    Now, when the police want to get access to your computer, they have to try to extradite your friend. You can't give them a password because there is no password. The only way to unlock your system is if your friend puts his eye up to his smartphone's camera and you put your smartphone up to your computer's iris scanner. They'd have to figure out a way to compel your friend, who lives in a country that may not have extradition treaty with your particular tyrannical hellhole.

    Yeah, I know it's inconvenient, but it would be worth it to frustrate the monsters who have seized power.

    Of course, by that point they'd probably just use rendition to send you someplace where you'll be tortured, just for making them have to work for a living. US or UK, I don't think there's any line they won't cross. Not any more. There's no longer a pretense to anything like personal rights. Unless your name ends in "Inc." you just don't have rights any more.

  • by cohomology (111648) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @05:36PM (#38110892)

    For the full report, Google
    filetype:pdf "The growing impact of full disk encryption on digital forensics"

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:27PM (#38111262) Journal
    I wonder if the defendant can legally refuse to give the password. On one hand, there is a law against self-incrimination. But on the other hand during discovery the plaintiff subpoenas documents, even if they are inside a safe to be revealed. Are there any precedences for this in US courts?
  • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv D ... neverbox DOT com> on Saturday November 19, 2011 @06:47PM (#38111426) Homepage

    Encrypted drives do not, obviously, use the password to decode the files. They use the password to decode a key and use that to encode the files.

    So I always thought it would be interested to have a computer that, on startup, wipes that part of the disk with 0s, sticking a copy somewhere else on the drive. (Which is not a security risk, because the other parts of the drives are, obviously, encrypted with that key, and you can't open box with a box cutter inside it.)

    And during safe shutdown, it puts it back. Or have a program you have to run to put it back, then shutdown.

    For safety purposes, you give a copy of the key to someone else for safekeeping. Bonus points if they're out of the country.

    Then you leave your computer on, and the screen locked, at all times. Bonus points if you rig it to an alarm where if someone breaks in, it cuts the power. (Also have it do the same if someone inserts firewire or USB while the screen is locked.)

    Now it doesn't matter how much you're ordered to comply with the police. They come in, cut the power to your computer, make a disk image...and you'll tell them the damn password all they want, but you are rather at a loss as to how they think that will work, considering the part of the drive with the key stored is has apparently been filled with 0s. (You'll need a lawyer able to explain that what they are asking cannot work.)

    Now, like I said, you can lie and pretend you don't know what's going on...or you can wait until they get a court order to have you decrypt, and then tell them what's going on. By which point your friend has hopefully already destroyed the key.

    And the joke is, even if you explain everything that happened, this is entirely legal. You have not destroyed any evidence, because the key was already missing from the unencrypted part of the drive when the warrant showed up. (Unlike some of the automated 'destroy data' traps that people try to come up with.) And you have cooperated fully, you literally cannot get to the data. And your friend didn't destroy evidence, because the search warrant was for your stuff, he can delete of his own files he wants until he is told otherwise.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      If your computer crashes, then your disk is ruined. You'd need to supply the backup key. If the backup key is even vaguely easy to access, then that's how they'll crack your disk regardless, because obtaining the copy of the backup key is almost certainly easier than cracking your password.

    • what about: power failure, UPS failure, hardware failure. Losing all your data sucks. This method would block keyloggers though, if they didn't know. Except modern drive recovery can restore the blanked out sector.
      • Re:Minor issues (Score:5, Informative)

        by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv D ... neverbox DOT com> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @02:24PM (#38117642) Homepage

        Except modern drive recovery can restore the blanked out sector.

        Uh, no.

        It has never, despite it being 'common wisdom', been possible to recover overwritten sectors on a hard drive.

        No one has ever demonstrated it in the entire history of hard drives.

        It was a theoretical attack a long time ago, on pre-IDE 'MFM' hard drives.But we moved off that sort of drive in 1986.

        And even then, it didn't work. It was a theory that said with a very poorly build hard drive, it might be possible to recover some data. Like I said, no one's ever actually shown this.

        And with IDE, we moved to RLL encoding which means, statistically, you couldn't get anything. With an MFM encoded drives, if you got 50% of the data with 50% accuracy, you had 25% of the data and might possibly come up with something, although, like I said, no one ever has managed this.

        But with RLL encoded drives, if you got 50% of the data with 50% accuracy, you have nothing. It is not really possible to get a partial byte.

        No that anyone has ever demonstrated reading anything from a ' The idea that you need to do anything more than overwrite a sector to make it unreadable is one of those zombie lies that simply cannot die.

        The only way to recover a lost sector is if it was going bad at some point, so the hard drive made a copy of it and remapped that sector to the copy. Which means the original might still be there. (OTOH, the original was going bad, so who knows if it's still readable.) The odds of this happening are astronomical.

    • by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Saturday November 19, 2011 @08:35PM (#38112188) Homepage

      Now it doesn't matter how much you're ordered to comply with the police. They come in, cut the power to your computer...

      When law enforcement officers confiscate a computer, they usually (in the US at least) try to transport the computer without powering it down. Standard procedure is to plug a portable generator into the wall outlet powering the computer, unscrew the outlet, and take the whole apparatus (including wall outlet, generator, and computer) to the forensics lab, without interrupting power to the computer. If all the jacks in an outlet are in use, they will unscrew the wall outlet and splice the generator's power cables into the outlet.

      The article and summary do mention situations where computers are powered down for transportation. These are exceptions. They are not the norm.

  • by barfy (256323) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @07:37PM (#38111760)

    You want to do someone in, and have access to their computer, a USB program that creates an encrypted partition would be enough to do one in. Proving one's innocence would probably be near impossible.

  • More research? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @10:37PM (#38112956)

    "Research is needed to develop new techniques and technology for breaking or bypassing full disk encryption."

    And, if they somehow manage that, research will be needed to develop new techniques and technology for creating even stronger encryption.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray

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