FindLaw's Writ - Colb: Does the Fifth Amendment Protect the Refusal to Reveal Computer Passwords? In a Dubious Ruling, A Vermont Magistrate Judge Says YesThis case raises some interesting questions about using cryptography. Not the usual ones about technical attacks, but about how strong crpyto behaves in court. In general, if someone finds an encrypted volume on your computer, is that prima fascia evidence of illegal materials and thus probable cause? Suppose it was called “my plans to kill the president”? In this particular case the defendant actually showed law enforcement people the contents of the encrypted directory, and the files located therein clearly indicated illegal content. That would seem to be his big mistake. The prosecutors are not guessing about the files in there, they know what is there already, and just want access.At the end of the day, the defendant can always decide if the punishment for contempt for not revealing the password is worse than the punishment for what will be found inside. If the contents are really bad, he is best off resisting. I can’t see anyone doing 20 years in jail to compel production of the password.Of course, in that amount of time, computers may be fast enough that brute forcing the password may be trivial. This is a real concern if the statute of limitations for your crime is very long or there is no limitation.