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This Just In: New data hack has major privacy implications

The New York Times is reporting that a group from Princeton has developed a way of reading encrypted data off of computer memory by literally freezing the data in place -- with liquid nitrogen -- before the data, in temporary storage, is erased. Private data thieves or government investigators could easily bypass sophisticated cryptographic systems with a cheap can of compressed air, potentially exposing private materials to unauthorized eyes. If the government were to use this technique to get around data security during sneak-and-peek operations, it would raise powerful fourth amendment concerns -- especially in the wake of a recent federal court ruling "that forcing [a] suspect to disclose [his encryption] password would be unconstitutional." (The Volokh Conspiracy has a good discussion of that ruling here.) Of course, the government theoretically has as much to fear from this development as citizens do -- at least where the computer memory is physically accessible -- since the bypass is uncommonly cheap and easy.

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