Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Encryption Security United Kingdom

UK Computing Student Jailed After Failing To Hand Over Crypto Keys 353

stephendavion sends news that Christopher Wilson, a 22-year-old computer science student, has been sent to jail for six months for refusing to hand over his computer encryption passwords. Wilson has been accused of "phoning in a fake warning of an impending cyber attack against Northumbria Police that was convincing enough for the force to temporarily suspend its site as a precaution once a small attack started." He's also accused of trolling on Facebook. Wilson only came to the attention of police in October 2012 after he allegedly emailed warnings about an online threat against one of the staff at Newcastle University. ... The threatening emails came from computer servers linked to Wilson. Police obtained a warrant on this basis and raided his home in Washington, where they seized various items of computer equipment. ... Investigators wanted to examine his encrypted computer but the passwords supplied by Wilson turned out to be incorrect. None of the 50 passwords he provided worked. Frustration with his lack of co-operation prompted police to obtained a order from a judge compelling him to turn over the correct passphrase last year. A judge ordered him to turn over these passwords on the grounds of national security but Wilson still failed to comply, earning him six months behind bars.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UK Computing Student Jailed After Failing To Hand Over Crypto Keys

Comments Filter:
  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:5, Informative)

    by I'm just joshin ( 633449 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @03:37PM (#47418279)

    There is no "5th Amendment" in the UK.

  • by Justpin ( 2974855 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @03:38PM (#47418287)
    Under similar UK laws, forgetting is a crime. For example in the UK if you get caught speeding by a speed camera, you have 30 days to tell the police who it was who was driving. Except there is no statute of limitations and speeding tickets can come through your door months after the event, though there is the frequently cited 2 week rule (Scotland has a statute of limitations). So if you genuinely forget then the registered keeper of the vehicle is usually given double the punishment of the speeding offence and sometimes the penalty for the speeding offence ontop. So a 3 points £100 fine becomes 9 points + £300 fine £90 tax (yes there is a tax on crime in the UK)
  • Re:National security (Score:5, Informative)

    by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @03:42PM (#47418341) Homepage
    This is England. Being taller than a police officer [] is a crime there.
  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @04:01PM (#47418613) Journal
    It doesn't matter. In the UK, you face jail time for not turning over passwords... even if you can prove you never had them. If the cops think that a photo has steganographically hidden data, you must produce the decryption key, or face jail time. If some anonymous so and so sends you a floppy disk, or USB stick, you must produce the decryption keys to any files on it.
  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:4, Informative)

    by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @04:46PM (#47419087)

    And in the US, you can be similarly compelled in some circumstances. [] - interesting presentation by the EFF on forced disclosure laws.

    The 5th amendment does _NOT_ always apply.

  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @04:51PM (#47419141)

    That will not work - UK law expects you to keep safe copies of all your keys and passwords so that you can provide them when asked to do so - you go to jail for not being able to provide them, saying you forgot them does not get you out of jail.

  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:5, Informative)

    by Moral Judgement ( 2865819 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:08PM (#47419333)
    I know what you want to say, and it is largely correct, but I won't let that get in the way of pedantry. The UK does have a constitution, which is often referred to as "unwritten". This is a bit of a misnomer, as most of the constitutional provisions in the UK are written down somewhere. For instance, most of what would be the equivalent of the US Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure are contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The UK constitution is not codified, and there are no framework constitutional principles (well maybe Parliamentary Sovereignty ), but it does exist. There are rules and processes that govern what become laws. It's more that Parliament can decide to remove any rights by repealing any enabling legislation, PACE, HRA, whatever. In the US, rights are supposedly natural, and cannot easily be taken away by government. Certainly, in the UK Parliament has not granted the citizenry any general protection from self incrimination. While there are laws against torture and other practices that could lead to malignant self incrimination, even the police caution when being interviewed reminds you that "You do not have to answer any questions, but it may harm your defense if you do not now mention something which you later rely on in court." So you definitely do not enjoy the same broad protections from self incrimination in the UK as you do in the US.
  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:5, Informative)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:29PM (#47419513)

    It seems you can be compelled to reveal your passwords in the US [] if they're looking for evidence they already know to exist rather than information they may not know about.

  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:32PM (#47419539)

    When you are arrested in the UK you are told that if you fail to mention when questioned anything you later rely on in court it may harm your defence, so there is no right to silence either.

    That isn't a right to silence. You're quite free to keep your mouth shut from arrest to the end of the trial. The only worrying part is that maintaining silence can be taken as an indication of guilt*. Talking about something in court which was not mentioned during police questioning may harm one's defence because anyone in the court is likely to think "if that would have helped, why didn't you say when you first had the chance?".

    *This might be another one of those things that is only in English or Scots law, like a scottish court returning a verdict of "not proven"**.

    **Which basically means "We can't prove you did it, but we know you did. Don't do it again."

  • by Smauler ( 915644 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @07:53PM (#47420769)

    You do know the US has "Stop and Identify []" laws which require you to talk to police? For example, in Texas :

    "A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information."

    It's a class C misdemeanor.

    These laws have been challenged [], and SCOTUS ruled that they don't violate miranda rights.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @08:49PM (#47421087)

    "Tyrant judge"?! He was applying the law. A bad law in the opinion of many people, sure, but nonetheless crystal clear in its scope and effect. Are you saying the judge should have not applied the law? That he should have ignored the statute and made up his own rules? You're in favor of "activist judges"?

    A judge should be free to question a law, yes.

    Judges in Australia have come out of court saying the law was wrong. I believe Judges in the US are allowed to do the same if it contravenes your constitution (same here, we have a constitution too you know).

    A judiciary that blindly follows the letter of the law is pointless as they just become to tools of politicians who often write bad and lopsided laws (hence making an independent judiciary pointedness). Nice try to poison the well with that "activist judge" quip, but it didn't work.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine