Technology Security

Boston Police may have conducted Improper Technology Seizure

It would seem that lately US law enforcement has been taking a healthy dose of ignorance pills. Slightly before the seizure of co-located equipment from two Dallas Data Centers by the FBI, a Boston College Police Officer [Kevin M. Christopher] seized several of a Computer Science student’s [Riccardo Calixte] Computers, a cellphone and an iPod. According to the officer all of these were needed as evidence for a mass e-mail that was sent about his roommate.

Now here is where things get interesting.Sending out a defaming e-mail is a civil matter the last time I checked, but not criminal. If the e-mail in question was sent out using a publicly available list server then no crime has been committed. You need Probable Cause that a crime has been committed to seize property.

The request for warrant was asked for based on the event of the mass e-mail but the crime alleged was “Obtaining Computer Services by Fraud or Misrepresentation” and “Unauthorized access to a computer system”. Again very misleading as there was no money in question and no mention of which computers were access is listed. A judge granted the actual warrant on the same day

Even more strangely the investigative information in the report is almost exclusively concerned with the mass e-mail that was sent using GMail and Yahoo [both free e-mail services] to a list server on the BC [Boston College] campus. The fact that the laptop used was not registered on the BC network as a student name but as a guest is still not a crime. There is also quite a bit of Hearsay information offered by Mr. Calixte’s roommate. But at no time is any of this confirmed. Officer Christopher shows his lack of competence by including the claim from Calixte’s roommate that Calixte is responsible for his new computer crashing all the time as evidence of potential hacking.

Further the statement was made after the two [Calitxe and his Roommate] were involved in a dispute. Statements made at such times should always be carefully investigated before acting. However this did not deter Officer Christopher, he plowed on anyway asking for and receiving the search warrant they seized the systems and other devices, and has kept them for over two weeks despite a seven day return to service requirement on all seized items.  In the request for warrant Calite’s roommate made allegations that Calixte was a hacker, and had illegal movies on his systems.

After reading the request for a search warrant it seems it is nothing more than another case of Law Enforcement Fishing. Calixte has filed a motion to have the search quashed on the basis of no Probable Cause and the lack of an established criminal act. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing him in this and has filed a supporting memorandum.