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WARNING: Losing your privacy: one security utility at a time ... Your encrypted disk may not be safe anymore!

Elcomsoft, a Russian company has now provided the world with a new utility to allow the examination of encrypted disks protected with BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt. For those who do not remember, Elcomsoft was the first company charged by the United States Government with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for publishing the workarounds to crack Adobe’s pathetic PDF security. The presenter, Dmitry Sklyarov, was arrested by the U.S. authorities and held without bail – causing a major uprising in the tech community. (Full disclosure: I was involved in the case and presented live code examples to the FBI that there was a legitimate and fair use case to be made for Elcomsoft’s products under the DMCA.)  And I was just as outraged over the jailing of Dimity as the rest of the tech community. To allow Adobe to continue the fiction that their products were safe and secure for use in the financial industry was a breach of faith and trust.

On July 16, 2001, Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian citizen employed by ElcomSoft who was at the time visiting the United States for DEFCON, was arrested and jailed for allegedly violating the United States DMCA law by writing ElcomSoft's Advanced eBook Processor software. A landmark court case ensued, setting precedents and attracting much public attention and protest. On December 17, 2002, ElcomSoft was found not guilty of all four charges under the DMCA. Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe Systems, had this to say to CNET:

Looking back with 20/20, I wish that we could have had better communication with ElcomSoft, Dmitry Sklyarov and the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) before the whole thing went public. I'm sorry that we weren't able to do that, because I think we could have resolved a lot of the issues.

Warning: Those people who believe that encrypting their laptop drives and other disks to keep them safe should be worried about the liability that will come from the unauthorized disclosure of non-public personal data should someone decrypt a protected drive …

Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor

Forensic Access to Encrypted BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt Disks and Containers

Perform the complete forensic analysis of encrypted disks and volumes protected with desktop and portable versions of BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt. Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor allows decrypting data from encrypted containers or mounting encrypted volumes, providing full forensic access to protected information stored in the three most popular types of crypto containers. Access to encrypted information is provided in real-time.

Features and Benefits

  • Decrypts information stored in three most popular crypto containers
  • Mounts encrypted BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt volumes
  • Supports removable media encrypted with BitLocker To Go
  • Supports both encrypted containers and full disk encryption
  • Acquires protection keys from RAM dumps, hibernation files
  • Extracts all the keys from a memory dump at once if there is more than one crypto container in the system
  • Fast acquisition (limited only by disk read speeds)
  • Zero-footprint operation leaves no traces and requires no modifications to encrypted volume contents
  • Recovers and stores original encryption keys
  • Supports all 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows

Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor runs in all 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 2003 and 2008 Server and is available for $299.00 Source: Forensic Access to Encrypted BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt Disks and Containers

It should also be noted that governments are some of Elcomsoft’s largest customers and that American citizens having encrypted laptops in or near border areas may have those devices seized and examined without warning – and there is no protest possible (except with an expensive court case) as certain 4th Amendment rights appear to be suspended in those zones.

As was widely expected, an appeals court has ruled that customs agents have every right to search the content of your laptop, reversing the only court case that had ruled otherwise (a few others had previously said such searches were just dandy).

The court found (just like the other rulings) that there's an "exception" to the 4th Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure at the border. The government, of course, claims that it needs to be able to search laptops to keep people safe -- but it doesn't explain why it needs the ability to search any laptop even if there's no suspicion or reason to do a further search. The lower court had noted, correctly, that there's so much data and information on a laptop, that it's effectively an extension of your brain. This makes sense. Since so much is digital today, you don't pack up your computer like you pack your suitcase. Everything is already on it. So while you can understand why it's okay to search your suitcases at the border, giving full access to a laptop seems to go beyond reason... unfortunately, the courts disagree.

In the meantime, if you're traveling into the country, consider anything on your laptop fair game... unless, of course, it's encrypted. In that case, at least one court says you don't need to give up your encryption key. <Source>

Of course, your permission and now your encryption key are no longer necessary.

Bottom line …

Rather than reviling and punishing hackers, crackers and makers of legitimate utility programs, one should be thankful that someone can provide useful tools and at the same time demonstrate the insecurity of products that we might normally rely on. Thus, spurring another round of innovation.

-- steve

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS