TrueCrypt 1; Feds 0

Yes, that appears to be the current score in a case where hard drives were seized, found to be encrypted, and are currently still that way.

In this age of computers that are capable of so much brute force activity it is amazing, and for me, heartening, to see that some things are beyond the scope of the law’s reach. Now that is not to say we should all be criminals and protect illegal information with encryption, but when nothing seems out of reach of this government, it is good to see that something is.

The story comes from South America, and takes a detour to the United States as the FBI was called in to consult on the problem of the undecipherable hard drive –


The FBI failed to break the encryption code of hard drives seized by federal police at the apartment of banker Daniel Dantas, in Rio de Janeiro, during Operation Satyagraha. The operation began in July 2008. According to a report published on Friday (25) by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, after a year of unsuccessful attempts, the U.S. federal police returned the equipment to Brazil in April.

According to the report, the fed only requested help from USA in early 2009, after experts from the National Institute of Criminology (INC) failed to decode the passwords on the hard drives. The government has no legal instrument to compel the manufacturer of the American encryption system or Dantas to give the access codes.

The equipment will remain under the protection of the feds. INC expect that new research data or technology could help them break the security codes. Opportunity Group reported that the two programs used in the equipment are available online. One is called Truecrypt and is free. The programs were used due to suspected espionage.

According to the report, the FBI and the INC used the same technology to try to break the password. It is a mechanism called a "dictionary" – a computer system that tests password combinations from known data and police information. Experts from the INC used this technique for five months, until December 2008, when the discs were sent to the United States.


As someone that has always been interested in encryption, coding, and higher mathematics, I can only say “Isn’t math a wonderful thing!”

One hand says we should be wary of things like this, because it could turn and be used against us, but that has always been the case with things on the bleeding edge; the other knows the certainty of the solution. We will hear of this being broken someday (that is if they don’t give up on it) but that may be some time even using the most advanced computers. It also depends on how much computing power the government is willing to devote to the problem.

For those familiar with this type of problem, remember how long it took to generate usable keys for Windows and Office, and that was much less difficult, as the computer was working from a point of much more information, on a much smaller problem.

This also points out how difficult it would be to stifle any sort of piracy if the pirates were transferring things using this type of encryption (the same goes for pornography or anything else illegal). Of course, then the authorities would simply look for the pass keys that would inevitably get passed from one place to another…


Quote of the day:

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth.

– Rex Stout

Spock @ the console the computer is on it, at full speed, Captain.  The probability of arriving at a solution before the next century is 1 in 10 to the 453rd power!