What Happens When the Court Demands You Decrypt a Document and You Forget the Key?
Last month, a U.S. court demanded that a defendent surrender the encryption key to a laptop so the police could examine it. Now it seems that she’s forgotten the key.
What happens now? It seems as if this excuse would always be available to someone who doesn’t want the police to decrypt her files. On the other hand, it might be hard to realistically forget a key. It’s less credible for someone to say “I have no idea what my password is,” and more likely to say something like “it was the word ‘telephone’ with a zero for the o and then some number following—four digits, with a six in it—and then a punctuation mark like a period.” And then a brute-force password search could be targeted. I suppose someone could say “it was a random alphanumeric password created by an automatic program; I really have no idea,” but I’m not sure a judge would believe it.
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