Youth Jailed For Refusing To Break Encryption


A teenager has been sent to jail after refusing to hand over the encryption key for his computer

A teenager has been sent to prison for refusing to reveal the encryption key that secured his computer to the police.

According to the Press Association, Oliver Drage, 19, was originally arrested in May 2009 by a team of officers from Blackpool tackling child sexual exploitation.

Police had seized his computer but could not access any of the material stored on it due to its encryption.

50 Character Password

Fast food worker Drage was formally requested to hand over what is described as a “50-character password”, but he failed to do so.

According to the Lancashire Evening Post, Drage told the jury at Preston Crown Court that he had forgotten the password.

However this claim did not cut any ice and he was convicted for failing to disclose an encryption key, an offence covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000. It is understood that the encryption provisions of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act came into force on 1 October 2007.

Drage was sentenced to 16 weeks in a Young Offenders Institution.

“This was a deliberate flouting of a court order compounded by your continual denial of guilt,” the judge is quoted as saying when handing out the sixteen-week sentence.

“Drage was previously of good character so the immediate custodial sentence handed down by the judge in this case shows just how seriously the courts take this kind of offence,” Det Sgt Neil Fowler, of Lancashire Police was quoted as saying by the Press Association.

Encryption Protection

“Computer systems are constantly advancing and the legislation used here was specifically brought in to deal with those who are using the Internet to commit crime,” Fowler added. “It sends a robust message out to those intent on trying to mask their online criminal activities that they will be taken before the courts with the ultimate sanction, as in this case, being a custodial sentence.”

It is understood that police are still trying to crack the code on Drage’s computer to find out its contents.

Of course, the case does raise an interesting point as to whether Drage may well have preferred to accept the 16 week jail sentence, rather than face the more lengthy jail sentence if the alleged illegal contents of his hard drive had been examined by the police.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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