England: District judge rebuffs crime agency’s swipe at alleged hacker’s encryption keys

An attempt by the National Crime Agency (NCA) to force a man accused of cyber hacking to give encrypted computer keys to US authorities has been thrown out by a judge.

The US tried to have Lauri Love, 31, extradited on charges of hacking into the US ArmyNASA and the US Federal Reserve computer systems.

In October 2013, the NCA seized Mr Love’s computers during a raid at his home Stradishall, Suffolk.

But at Westminster Magistrates’ CourtDistrict Judge Nina Tempia said the NCA should have used police powers instead of resorting to a civil action to obtain the passwords.

She 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.”

Mr Love’s lawyer Karen Todner, head of crime, regulatory and extradition at Kaim Todner, said: “Mr Love is very pleased with the decision of District Judge Tempia… not to grant the direction requested by the NCA. This was clearly the right outcome.

“The case raised important issues of principle in relation to the right to respect for private life and right to enjoyment of property and the use of the court’s case management powers. A decision in the NCA’s favour would have set a worrying precedent for future investigations of this nature and the protection of these important human rights.

“The NCA first served a RIPA Notice on Mr Love in February 2014 but took no further action to continue it after he did not comply. Over two years later, by seeking a direction from the court for Mr Love to disclose the encryption keys and passwords, the NCA were clearly attempting to circumvent the proper statutory mechanisms  put in place by Parliament for the investigation of encrypted data and the important safeguards tied in with these.  The District Judge rightly saw through this approach and found in Mr Love’s favour.

“We continue to defend his extradition proceedings which are ongoing.”