back to article Computing student jailed after failing to hand over crypto keys

A computer science student accused of hacking offences has been jailed for six months for failing to hand over his encryption passwords, which he had been urged to do in "the interests of national security". Christopher Wilson, 22, of Mitford Close, Washington, Tyne and Wear, was jailed for refusing to hand over his computer …

Anonymous Coward

Ahh, Asperger's

That old chestnut. Sounds like he's gone down for the lesser offence. Sensible enough , if he had anything worse to hide.

17
4

Re: Ahh, Asperger's

....and when he gets out, they can ask him again.

12
1
Silver badge

Re: Ahh, Asperger's

Or wait for a quantum computer and charge him with the original offence?

Presumably the police can retain the computers for further investigation. He came to notice bacuse he used compters easily linked to him, perhaps if anyone knws the birthday of his first cat .....

2
0

Re: Ahh, Asperger's

I thought that the quantum computing algorithms only worked against asymmetric keys? Or am I hugely mistaken?

0
0

Silly sod

It's not just the several months of his life in prison he's chucked away, there's no way he'll get a responsible job in a computer related area after this!

7
14
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silly sod

From the chronical - “He is aware he will struggle to find employment in this field now and as a consequence he has started his own business in real-time artificial intelligence based systems.”

If he's as bright as the Chron makes out, he'll be ok.

19
1

Re: Silly sod

Are you sure? Sounds like he a least knows how to make a system secure against police investigations.

33
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silly sod

Are you serious? I've never been asked questions about my (lack of) criminality and I doubt time served for refusing to cough up passwords would do anything except comment on his strength of character. Yeah it might prevent employment with DOD or NHS but there's plenty of other places.

But as an employer I would be more concerned by the silly things he appears to find amusing or important such as trolling Facebook etc.

15
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silly sod

"It's not just the several months of his life in prison he's chucked away, there's no way he'll get a responsible job in a computer related area after this!"

HAH!!!

Some of the richest and most successful IT workers are convicted "criminals". He'll probably end up being a consultant for a security firm making a few hundred thousand a year.

7
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silly sod

I've never been asked questions about my (lack of) criminality and I doubt time served for refusing to cough up passwords would do anything except comment on his strength of character. Yeah it might prevent employment with DOD or NHS but there's plenty of other places.

Any responsible employer will do a background check on you, and this will stick out like a sore thumb. If you have exceptional skills you may get away with this, but as selections are typically made by HR tickbox droids they will normally play safe and rule you out. They don't ask why, they don't care.

9
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silly sod

Some of the richest and most successful IT workers are convicted "criminals". He'll probably end up being a consultant for a security firm making a few hundred thousand a year.

Hmm, must be an interesting sales process. "Let us check your security, because we employ lots of convicted criminals who won't take advantage of what they find" - you know, that may even work..

/sarcasm

It's not banking, you know :)

4
1

Re: Silly sod

Who knows. He might get hired as security consultant as soon as he gets out of jail

0
2
Silver badge

Re: Silly sod

He worked in AI. He had no chance of a decent job anyway...

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silly sod

Indeed. Perhaps by a Major Political Party who might want to use his obfuscation skills.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Silly sod

"Any responsible employer will do a background check on you, and this will stick out like a sore thumb. If you have exceptional skills you may get away with this, but as selections are typically made by HR tickbox droids they will normally play safe and rule you out. They don't ask why, they don't care."

This ^^ Absolutely this.

Every bank I've ever worked for has done significant background checks using one agency or another. The likelihood of his hiding such a prominent case is very slim, unless he does a deedpoll name change as soon as his Rehab of Offenders period is up. Even then, he's going to need to requalify under his new name and effectively begin a new work history.

What I find most interesting, is that I remember when Aspergers was rare, very rare. Now literally anyone caught doing anything wrong seems to have it. Why is that? Is Autism increasing, or are people arrested for crimes rushing into a diagnosis they think might help them get off with a lighter punishment?

5
1

Re: Silly sod

He's either got a huge stash of child porn in his encrypted disks/vaults, or he's a complete moron.

3
8

Re: Silly sod

Aspergers' "used to be rare" because the diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders is still something of a 'work in progress', and has only really started to become accepted in the last 20 years or so.

4
1
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Noggin Re: Silly sod

"Aspergers' "used to be rare" because the diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders is still something of a 'work in progress'..." And nothing to do with the fact that certain 'civil liberties' lawyers thought it was a great defence ploy to try and get assorted skiddies off with, especially given the inability for the diagnosis to be established beyond all reasonable doubt.

4
6

Re: Noggin Silly sod

I see that you're taking the Daily Fail approach of assuming the diagnosis was given during the judicial process.

The story makes no mention of when he was diagnosed, would you have made a similar suggestion if he had been confined to a wheelchair?

As has been pointed out, we are getting better at diagnosing mental conditions, which leads to more people being diagnosed (and treated) than would have happened in the past, which in turn leads to a greater percentage of people in the court system who have been diagnosed with some kind of problem.

Implying that it is purely a ploy used to get obviously guilty people off the hook is offensive to people who have these problems, those who live with, work with and care for those people and to the justice system itself.

7
4
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: chr0m4t1c Re: Noggin Silly sod

"I see that you're taking the Daily Fail approach of assuming the diagnosis was given during the judicial process....." You can thank Gary McKinnon's very timely diagnosis, very much during the judicial process, for that, thanks. I know people with Aspergers that cringe every time one of these cases gets public attention exactly because McKinnon's team and his supporters hammered on and on about how Aspergers reduced a supposedly competent person to a dribbling imbecile with no ability to be able to tell right from wrong. Otherwise feel free to trot about on your moral hobbyhorse as much as you like, it is quite amusing.

7
1

Re: Silly sod

<snip>

"What I find most interesting, is that I remember when Aspergers was rare, very rare. Now literally anyone caught doing anything wrong seems to have it. Why is that? Is Autism increasing, or are people arrested for crimes rushing into a diagnosis they think might help them get off with a lighter punishment?"

Autism is no better or no worse and ways of detecting it are no better either. There is however a bigger chance of the likes of us ElReg 'Tards having it and computer people in general having it than the general population.

However ...

We are living in a society that seems to eschew personal culpability and a reason has to be created for our actions. In this case he has aspergers or whatever therefore it is not his fault in some way.

Were I to go into a pub and cause violence to someone , I would hope that people would see me for what I was i.e. nasty sociopath rather than a victim of some rubbish in my past and therefore not personally culpable for my actions.

Sheesh.

1
1

Re: chr0m4t1c Noggin Silly sod

<snip>

" Otherwise feel free to trot about on your moral hobbyhorse as much as you like, it is quite amusing."

Well said Matt and brace yourself for a finger up or possibly a thumb.

1
1
PDC

Re: Noggin Silly sod

Asperger's is a neurological issue, not a mental health one. Think of it as being a hardware rather than a software issue. I've my last assessment this coming Friday!

3
0
CLD

Re: Silly sod

"Why is that? Is Autism increasing, or are people arrested for crimes rushing into a diagnosis they think might help them get off with a lighter punishment?"

Probably a little from Column A and a little from Column B...

One thing I find interesting, is that studies show that kids from parents with technical backgrounds are more likely to have Autism (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-geeky-couples-more-likely-to-have-kids-with-autism/). I would suggest that it is a form of natural selection / evolution whereby the offspring are genetically predisposed to reinforce certain traits which helped the parents / grandparents whilst neglecting others (e.g. Intense Focus on problems but loss of social awareness). More and more of us are living technical careers, so I could see this issue increasing in future.

2
0

Re: Silly sod

Rare? I learned a few years ago -- I'm 70 -- that I'd been "on the spectrum," as they say, all my life.

FWIW department: An "aspie" memory got me caned for obstinance at St Pirans, ca 1953, when I couldn't answer questions about what I'd learnt the day before. Ask me in a week.

140 IQ (according to later US Army tests) but a doctor is asking me, slowly enough the imbecile he thought me would understand, "How many fingers am I holding up?" Fun, eh?

3
0

Re: Silly sod

"Rare? I learned a few years ago -- I'm 70 -- that I'd been "on the spectrum," as they say, all my life."

<snip>

Hi mate, I am a veteran as you say but I will tell you this (52 years). A lot of us here are probably in the spectrum as it comes with work we do or we are more inclined to do the work we do due to our place on the spectrum.

See past subjects on the matter where the odd one of us comes out and we then admit our membership of the club.

Note the use of the term 'our'.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Silly sod

In some parts of the DoD, his refusal to hand over passwords might well make him more desireable

0
1

A masters degree in computing?

And yet he still sends criminal emails from his place of study...

Genious!

11
0

Re: A masters degree in computing?

You mean GENIUS ... Shirley

13
0
Silver badge

Re: A masters degree in computing?

"You mean GENIUS ... Shirley"

Of course he doesn't. "Genious" is clearly the opposite of ingenious, and a highly appropriate term in the circumstances.

8
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: A masters degree in computing?

>And yet he still sends criminal emails from his place of study...

And of course it was the offense of which he was convicted, no it wasn't, it was apparently failure to provide evidence against himself.

9
1

Re: A masters degree in computing?

Hmmm.

Dunno <sic>. I did a masters and it took me 8 weeks! I believe at certain establishments they give them away free.

3
0

Re: A masters degree in computing?

They certainly do at Cambridge... You get it free simply by not dying for a few years!

(Then again, given the history of spy recruitment, maybe that is an accomplishment!)

2
0

Re: A masters degree in computing?

Yep and one has to pay 50 quid to get it. My degrees came from less exalted sources.

Nahh, you have to be gay at Cambridge to get into spying. As for politicians, cough, spit.

Check out Oxford Labour Party to find out where my shame lies (1.).

1. Hint, my user name gives away more than one might think.

0
0
Silver badge

Hmmmmmmmm.

"For the prosecution, Neil Pallister concluded that:

Effectively, the crown's case is, the only appropriate inference to draw from the defendant's refusal to disclose the password to allow access to the computer is it would have revealed activity of the type mentioned in the messaging, namely hacking of police, Serious Organised Crime Agency and university websites."

6
0

Re: Hmmmmmmmm.

Shame self-incrimination doesn't apply here. What happened to the right to remain silent?

5
1
Silver badge

What happened to the right to remain silent?

It was removed several years ago.

23
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: What happened to the right to remain silent? @John G Imrie

>It was removed several years ago

No it wasn't. You can still remain silent and not answer any questions only now the police can mention it in court as if to say that you must be guilty if you didn't say something.

12
1

Re: What happened to the right to remain silent? @John G Imrie

Indeed. The right to remain silent is in place, and as worthless as ever. Silence means nothing.

The bit worth having (which is frequently referred to as the right to remain silent) is the right not to incriminate yourself.

However, that no longer exists. If you don't know who was driving your car when it got speed-gunned, the Police will assume it was the registered keeper despite the fact a rear-facing gatso will provide no conclusive evidence of who was driving.

Likewise a Judge no longer instructs juries that they may not infer anything from a refusal to answer a question.

11
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: What happened to the right to remain silent? @John G Imrie

If you don't know who was driving your car when it was speed gunned?

Wasn't it either you, or the other person who uses your car, if you weren't driving it that day? In the real world?

4
3
Silver badge

Re: Hmmmmmmmm.

Indeed. I'd expect that summing up not from the prosecution, but from the defence as a way to demonstrate the futility of the case.

But, it seems Matt Bryant was the judge ;-)

6
4
Silver badge

Re: What happened to the right to remain silent? @John G Imrie

>If you don't know who was driving your car when it was speed gunned?

It's going to get interesting if the driverless car ever gets on the road ....

2
0
Boffin

Re: What happened to the right to remain silent? @John G Imrie

Wasn't it either you, or the other person who uses your car, if you weren't driving it that day? In the real world?

Maybe it was the person on the other side of town who has the same car as you with the same plates

6
0
Silver badge

Re: Hmmmmmmmm.

That's one conclusion that can be drawn. I wouldn't consider it the only one. Perhaps the encrypted data contains evidence of other, entirely unrelated crimes - maybe he has been running the university piracy network, or has a secret stash of some pornography of dubious legality.

2
1

Re: Hmmmmmmmm.

The Tories removed that human right in the UK in 1994

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Justice_and_Public_Order_Act_1994

The Tories seemingly hate human rights.

6
5

Re: Hmmmmmmmm.

Phew, good thing guilty until proven innocent is the new way of justice

4
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: What happened to the right to remain silent? @John G Imrie

"Wasn't it either you, or the other person who uses your car, if you weren't driving it that day? In the real world?

Maybe it was the person on the other side of town who has the same car as you with the same plates"

Hmm, they're not using your car though, are they?

So presumably your defence in that situation ISN'T "I don't know who was driving that car on the journey I didn't make, on the day I was in my car going somewhere else". Presumably your defence is "that's not my car"

0
0

Re: What happened to the right to remain silent? @John G Imrie

"If you don't know who was driving your car when it was speed gunned?

Wasn't it either you, or the other person who uses your car, if you weren't driving it that day? In the real world?"

Not if someone nicked your plates or copied them.

Extremely difficult to get rid of the charges despite showing it can't possibly be you.

2
1

Which crypto?

Do we know which encryption algorithm(s) and which software he was using? Inquiring citizens might like to know which systems can't be broken by the police.

17
1
Silver badge

Re: Which crypto?

Remember how in WWII, allied soldiers were still sent on missions it was KNOWN they'd fail because the allies didn't want the Germans to suspect they'd cracked Enigma....

4
1

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018