At the end of January, a small news article about a woman in Colorado made few, if any headlines. Maybe it was ignored because it looked like another one of the already too prevalent white-collar scams that seem to come to light daily. Sure, it had an interesting twist, with Ms. Fricosu at the heart of it instead of one more middling, over-the-hill white male. However, female criminals aren’t news, either.
The real twist is her laptop, which she encrypted using Symantec’s PGP Desktop. PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy, which uses multiple cryptographic methods to lock a user’s information, making its name an understatement. The program encrypts emails, and adds another layer to look at how Ms. Fricosu is making headway into territory typically dominated by men, data encryption (if you look at the most recent Department of Labor survey, some areas under Information have so few women that the percentage is not even recorded).
A judge ordered Ms. Fricosu to supply the password for her computer, but her attorney fought the order, claiming the Fifth Amendment protected her from self-incrimination. This argument raises the question: would handing over her password be more akin to testifying against herself, or merely complying with a search and seizure warrant?
In January, the Supreme Court held up the order to supply the password, but now Ms. Fricosu has informed the presiding judge that she has forgotten her password. If PGP uses encryption keys at all like the nonsensical string of numbers and letters my router makes me give to friends so they can log onto my internet, her predicament is believable. Maybe she emailed the password to herself as a reminder?