A district judge has thrown out an application that attempted to force an alleged hacker into relinquishing his passwords.
According to the BBC, the United States has accused Lauri Love, 31, of stealing “massive quantities” of data from the U.S. Federal Reserve and NASA.
Federal authorities are attempting to extradite Love to the United States, where he faces a maximum prison sentence of 99 years.
Back in 2013, the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom seized the alleged hacker’s computers during a raid at his home in Stradishall, Suffolk.
No charges have been brought against Love in the UK. He has since sued the NCA for the return of six items that are encrypted.
The NCA responded by submitting an application to a district court that would have forced Love to disclose his passwords before he could receive his items.
That petition was rejected on Tuesday by District Judge Nina Tempia of London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, who said in her ruling (PDF) the NCA should have used regular police powers and not a civil action to obtain the information from the alleged hacker.
“I’m not granting the application because, to obtain the information sought, the correct procedure to use – as the NCA did two-and-a-half years ago – is RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) and the inherent safeguards incorporated thereafter.”
She went on to observe that the court’s case management powers cannot be used to skirt existing legislation to obtain the desired disclosure.
Following the ruling, Love said he was happy with the results but said it would not in itself bring about meaningful change with regards to people’s security and privacy. As quoted by The Guardian:
“It is a victory, although it is a more an avoidance of disaster. It retains the status quo, which means there has to be safeguards before you force people to undermine their security.”
Love’s focus now shifts to late June, when a hearing for his extradition to the United States on one count of conspiracy and six counts of causing damage to protected computers is scheduled to be held.
News of the district court’s decision follows a few weeks after the FBI found a method to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters without Apple’s assistance.