surrendering one's passphrase to authorities

John Clizbe John at
Wed Mar 4 20:40:09 CET 2009

gerry_lowry (alliston ontario canada) wrote:
> on vedaal's laptop design ... 
>   [5] marry the drive to the motherboard so that removing the drive
>         to another computer would cause the drive to self destruct.
>   [6] design the drive as a secondary only never bootable drive;
>         it's sister drive would carry the O/S and detect any O/S
>         tampering; the data drive would use non standard
>         logical and physical architecture to require specialized
>         drivers in order to be accessed, i.e., no generic access.
>   [7] design the drive to fail if physically opened or probed.
>   [8] design the drive to be not probable by any form of hands off
>        electronic eavesdropping.
>   [9] remove dependency of need [4] destruct activation by any human.
> [10] destruct the drive immediately if the smart card is yanked out
>         improperly; probably removal should be almost equally brief, example:
>         Ctrl+x, Ctrl+y,Ctrl+z, where x, y, and z are user configurable.
> [11] find financing for this technology.
> gerry
> P.S.:  "Cryptonomicon", Neal Stephenson, ISBN: 9780060512804; ISBN10: 0060512806;
>          The "... crypto-hacker grandson, Randy" character, "is attempting to create ... a
>          place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny";
>          there are some interesting laptop related ideas in the novel; also, the book uses in
>          its plot a deck of cards for passing encrypted messages back and forth undetected;
>          there is also an appendix that describes the algorithm for using the deck of cards;
>          that appendix and algorithm design was created by Bruce Schnier, example:
> "Solitaire for KJava home page"; especially see
> "The Solitaire Encryption Algorithm", version 1.2, 5/26/99.

This is being heavily discussed over on the [Cryptography] list (Judge
orders defendant to decrypt PGP-protected laptop). Perry Metzger, the
list moderator, shared a very apt insight:

    The judge doesn't "need" to know the difference to beyond any
    doubt. If the judge thinks you're holding out, you go to jail for

    Geeks expect, far too frequently, that courts operate like Turing
    machines, literally interpreting the laws and accepting the
    slightest legal "hack" unconditionally without human consideration
    of the impact of the interpretation. This is not remotely the case.

    I'll repeat: the law is not like a computer program. Courts operate
    on reasonableness standards and such, not on literal interpretation
    of the law. If it is obvious to you and me that a disk has multiple
    encrypted views, then you can't expect that a court will not be able
    to understand this and take appropriate action, like putting you in
    a cage.

This is also a VERY narrowly defined decision, based on what the
defendant already showed ICE (US Customs) officers at the border.

John P. Clizbe                      Inet:John (a)
You can't spell fiasco without SCO. hkp://  or
     mailto:pgp-public-keys at

Q:"Just how do the residents of Haiku, Hawai'i hold conversations?"
A:"An odd melody / island voices on the winds / surplus of vowels"

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