Teacher faces jailtime for unsolicited porno popups in class

Earlier this month Julie Amero, a 40-year-old substitute teacher from Connecticut, was found guilty on four felony counts after her computer started spawning unwanted porno popups in class. The prosecution claimed that Amero was deliberately surfing for porn in class, but Amero says she was the victim of a spyware infestation. My latest AlterNet article has the whole sordid story.

The prosecution's witness told the jury that Amero must have "physically clicked" on porn links. However, the expert admitted on cross-examination that he never even checked for malware that could have redirected Amero's browser involuntarily.

In an independent forensic analysis of Amero's computer, defense expert, Herb Horner proprietor of Contemporary Computer Consultants, found viruses, spyware, and adware in her computer's activity logs.

Horner was able to reconstruct what happened inside the computer on the morning of October 19, 2004. Someone started doing online job searches shortly after eight am. Various pieces of spyware and adware were starting to act up. A few minutes later someone navigated to a non-pornographic hair styling site which sent a java script file full of porn links. You could tell it was the hair page because the references were all back to the hair site. When the computer started executing this file, the machine was locked in an endless cycle of obscene popups.

Unfortunately, the jury didn't hear most of Horner's evidence because the defense attorney didn't tell the prosecution about the malware defense in advance, as the defense was supposed to have done. As a result, most of Horner's testimony was inadmissible.

I spoke to Horner this afternoon. He told me that, thanks to the article, he was getting calls from other people who may been framed by spyware or adware on their computers.

Spyware expert Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, says if a computer has been infected with malware, it is impossible to differentiate a user's clicks from malware operations by looking at the internet browser's cache--except maybe if special monitoring software was already installed when the incident happened.

I'm told that Alex will be on the radio this afternoon to talk about the Amero case. I'll see if I can add a link to the audio later on.

[Sunbelt Blog]

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