FBI Agent: Decrypting Data ‘Fundamentally Alters’ Evidence

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: An FBI agent has brought up an interesting question about the nature of digital evidence: Does decrypting encrypted data “fundamentally alter” it, therefore contaminating it as forensic evidence? According to a hearing transcript filed last week, FBI Special Agent Daniel Alfin suggested just that. The hearing was related to the agency’s investigation into dark web child pornography site Playpen. In February 2015, the FBI briefly assumed control of Playpen and delivered its users a network investigative technique (NIT) — or a piece of malware — in an attempt to identify the site’s visitors. […] According to experts called by the defense in the affected case, the fact that the data was unencrypted means there is a chance that sensitive, identifying information of people who had not been convicted of a crime was being sent over the internet, and could have been manipulated. (Alfin paints this scenario as unlikely, saying that an attacker would have to know the IP address the FBI was using, have some sort of physical access to the suspect’s computer to learn his MAC address, and other variables.)


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