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

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

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @03:46PM (#47418409) Homepage Journal

    People have argued the right to not incriminate themselves right up to the European courts, but it was rejected. 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.

    What isn't clear from the story is if this guy just forgot his password or if he refused to hand it over. The law says that the police must prove you knew the password, e.g. by showing that you used it very recently.

    Either way, it's a fucked up law that needs to be repealed.

  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @03:51PM (#47418471) Homepage
    The 5th amendment has certain loopholes.

    One of them is it only applies in the United States, not in the United Kingdom. duh.

    Another is that if you agree to give up your right (i.e. offer a password), then you can be punished for lying about it (i.e. offering a false password).

  • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @04:18PM (#47418805)
    Valeris: "I do not remember."

    Spock: "A lie?"

    Valeris: "A choice."
  • Re:Seems appropriate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GoddersUK ( 1262110 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:28PM (#47419497)
    Not true. ( guy wasn't convicted until he decided to reveal it as part of separate proceedings proving he hadn't forgotten it; I'm surprised they didn't have him for perjury or something too.) Think about it - if that was the law every time you visit an SSL secured website you'd be breaking the law since your computer doesn't record the session keys. And perfect forward secrecy would be illegal too. Not that I'd put any of that past the government here, mind you, but it hasn't happened yet.
  • by sabri ( 584428 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:59PM (#47420397)

    in any way incriminating yourself?

    This. Exactly this. When any law enforcement agency suspect that I am guilty of a crime, I have the right to remain silent. With these "tiny little" exceptions, governments are getting onto a slippery slope. Right now it's just passwords. The next step will be the location of harddrives with evidence. Then it will be "tell us where the body is so we can convict you, if you don't tell us you'll go to jail anyway".

    In my opinion, the right to remain silent is absolute. No matter how you look at it, this man is being jailed for remaining silent in a criminal investigation. And that, my friend, are Soviet practices.

    Not being able to prosecute certain crimes for lack of evidence is the cost that a society pays for having a level playing field and a fair trial.

  • by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @08:02PM (#47420839) Homepage

    Except in the UK, you do not have the right to remain silent, or at least, you can remain silent but that may work against you in court.

    Wikipedia explains,

    "The right to silence was amended in 1984 by allowing adverse inferences to be drawn at a court hearing in cases where a suspect refuses to explain something, and then later produces an explanation. In other words the jury is entitled to infer that the accused fabricated the explanation at a later date, as he refused to provide the explanation during police questioning."

    Furthermore, this is nothing new to the UK; there is precedent [] for being arrested for not providing your password to the police when requested, and the courts supported the action.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.