A court case involving an alleged cyber hacker has been thrown out by the judge, despite the National Crime Agency making their opinion clear that the accused must hand over encrypted computer passwords.
This had been instigated after the US attempted to extradite the accused on charges of hacking the US Army, Nasa and US Federal Reserve networks. In response, the NCA had seized several computers during a raid at his home in Stradishall, Suffolk, in October 2013.
Due to this action, London’s Westminster Magistrate’s Court District Judge Nina Tempia said that the NCA did not adhere to normal police procedure and as a result, the call to hand over the passwords was rejected.
Judge Nina Tempia said: "I'm not granting the application because, to obtain the information sought, the correct procedure to use - as the NCA did two-and-a-half years ago - is RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) and the inherent safeguards incorporated thereafter."
The accused has been charged for encryption, with the NCA hoping to access his computer equipment by forcing them to give up their ‘key’, but the request was disapproved.
Although no charges have been brought against him in the UK, the accused is believed to have stolen ‘massive quantities’ of sensitive data resulting in millions of dollars of losses, which according to his lawyers, could land him 99 years in prison if the US find him guilty.
Our Cyber and Online Crime Defence Solicitor, Gary Broadfield said: "Had the Court agreed with the NCA, it would have significantly extended the powers of the police to obtain passwords from those under investigation.
However, the application for the return of property was brought by Mr Love. Had the Court ordered him to disclose his encryption keys, it is likely that he would not have done so. Instead he would have simply dropped his application, rendering that order redundant but leaving the inaccessible computers in the hands of the NCA. However, the fact that the Court did not attempt to create a principle that RIPA can be circumvented by a Court Order is welcome.
Finally Mr Love does not yet have his computers back. This was only a preliminary issue and the final hearing is scheduled for July. The Court may yet decide not to exercise its discretionary power to order the return of the computers to him."