Massachusetts Worker Cleared Of Child Porn After Malware Discovered On His Machine; Life Still In Shambles

from the not-a-good-situation dept

Remember the ridiculous Julie Amero case in Connecticut? That was the one where a substitute teacher was facing jail time because the computer she used in a classroom had malware that displayed pornographic images. The local prosecutors wanted to send her to jail, despite the fact that it was the malware that put up the porn. It looks like a similar situation (luckily, without the jailtime) is playing itself out in Massachusetts. There, a “computer illiterate” state employee was fired for child porn found on his computer. After hiring a computer forensics expert, who pointed out that the state’s IT department hadn’t configured the machines securely and that it was chock full of malware, the guy has been cleared of child porn charges — but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been disgraced and out of work for over a year.

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Comments on “Massachusetts Worker Cleared Of Child Porn After Malware Discovered On His Machine; Life Still In Shambles”

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43 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Damn the media...

They are not so much liars, as an abomination of the concept of “News”. They are not “News reporters”, they are a “News business” that hires reporters. The fact that the world demands sensationalism — based on the fact that only sensationalism sells is the fault of the consumer, and the path the “news” must follow to continue to stay in business.

Economics and the consumers are as much to blame as the downfall of journalistic integrity. That, and the ability for ANYONE to make any statement these days, and declare it fact, despite the overwhelming likelihood that it is being anything but.

Statey says:

A Good Reason

This case highlights why malware authors should be facing stiff jail terms.

The majority of computer users are in the same situation this guy is. To say that anti-spyware and anti-virus could have helped is ridiculous. The malware authors are constantly circumventing protective systems and the clueless user gets screwed.

discojohnson says:

the american way

but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been disgraced and out of work for over a year.

nothing a $100,000,000 lawsuit can’t fix. never have to work again, and can move to a place where his name isn’t known by the locals. and for the nay-sayers that say that it’s too much or that they shouldn’t sue… well, if you allow ridiculous sums of money to be paid out for wrongfully accusing folks, then the prosecution will make g*damn sure they’ve got it right.

discojohnson says:

Re: Re:

now now.. however, remember child porn is anything under 18 (or in many cases perceived to be aged under 18). so if it’s a 17 yr old being shown due to a russian malware suite, well there you have it. additionally, if the guy was into kiddy porn, he’d have it in more places than just his computer at work.

Can't Believe Some People says:

Yes Really Child Porn Malware

I have also dealt with more machines than I care to remember having malware on them and just because you have never personally been exposed to it does not mean it isnt out there I’m almost positive you haven’t been exposed to the cold blackness of space but it is out there right? I have seen things on peoples computers that would make the guy filming 2 girls 1 cup gag. These are little old ladies who goto recipe websites and their grandkids come over and look for cheat codes to GTA and boom they have some of the nastiest stuff around. Norton Mcafee and the like are powerless to do anything they cant stop it if it isnt updated and how do they update if they dont know about it Granted this is by a vast majority Windows users but still how is grandma who grew up in the depression gonna know how to update her AV?
And the comment about it being a good excuse yes it was a good excuse to get out of jail, Hell anything is a good excuse to get out of jail

Safe browsing habits? says:

How did the malware get on the machine?

Seriously, people think that the internet is a wild and dangerous place and that exposure to viruses and malware comes standard with plugging in the cord. Truth is very few people get hacked and get this crap installed on they’re system by an exterior party. 99% of malware comes from visiting non-professional sites or professional sites with minimum security procedures.

I just find it odd that this “computer illiterate employee” in using his company laptop issued with usage instructions got this stuff installed while preforming his standard work related procedures. So while we all like to blame the IT and the malware, cause we don’t want to ruin this guy’s life, truth be told, it is his fault it’s on his machine. Since the law is possession and ignorance is in no other circumstance a defense, this kinda gets me ticked off.

He was a threat to the network and used his tools in an unprofessional manner. Sure fight the child porn charges, as his not being aware should mitigate some but not all of the responsibility, however, I do not feel sorry for him loosing his job. If I used a hammer, blowtorch, stove, etc, incorrectly or inappropriately I’d be held accountable. They supplied him a computer for a reason. The computer is a tool. Hold him accountable for abusing the tool just like he would if it were any other tool.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How did the malware get on the machine?

“Since the law is possession” The employer owned it.

Have you ever thought that the computer may have had the crap on it before he was given the computer. I guess the next job he gets he needs to demand that the computer has never been used before or have the OS reinstalled.

I wonder if any music cds were played on the computer if so it could have been one of the S0ny root kit disks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How did the malware get on the machine?

you’d change your mind real quick if your technically illiterate boss did the same to you. I guess the real problem here is that people are willing to throw justice and pragmatism out the window for their shot of wagging that finger and saying “thou shalt not blahblablah.” too many people get off doing that..

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: How did the malware get on the machine?

Umm… I think you’re an idiot. My work computer, by which I mean the computer that everyone at my work uses, was turned into a zombie computer awhile back. Maybe we did go to an unsafe site. Most of our vendors have websites, some good, some bad, but how are we supposed to know if it was built by an awesome web designer or a crappy one before we ever go there?

Furthermore, we look up all kind of industry-important things on there. Lots of Internet browsing for actual work. Zero porn browsing for entertainment. We have Ad-Aware that runs each morning, Spybot that runs every Monday, and Avast! that runs continuously, with a full sweep each month.

Yet we still got zombied. I have no idea how. Neither does my hubby, who is an IT professional. So now I guess we should be prosecuted for all of the spam that was sent through our computer and our domain. Huh. That’s a novel approach.

And to Ben W below. Those programs are useful, but not even remotely close to fullproof.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: How did the malware get on the machine?

It’s been answered to some degree but here’s a few suggestions:

1. It had been used by another person previously, and the techs who prepared to machine for redeployment only removed the obvious crap and didn’t bother wiping/reimaging it, leaving malware intact.

2. The guy left the machine in the office one night, and someone decided to use it to surf for porn (perhaps logging in using an insecure or widely-known admin password).

3. Some intern couldn’t find the real version of Office so decided to install a warez copy he found instead.

4. The machine wasn’t properly patched and a well-known exploit was used to zombie the machine the second he logged on line.

5. The machine wasn’t properly secured and it got hosed when he got one of those ‘hey click here!’ messages from one of his similarly-hacked MSN contacts.

That’s just scratching the surface. Remember also, that as an illiterate user, he may well have done something to hose the machine himself to root the machine without remembering it. That’s why a competent I.T. department doesn’t allow users admin access…

Ben W (user link) says:

Malware Tools

Spybot Search & Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org) and Ad-Aware (http://www.download.com search for Ad-Aware). This is the first thing I use whenever someone says their computer is ‘acting weird’. Try it – it’ll find things you never knew existed. Then run the teatimer, it’ll protect against future attacks. Both are free, although Ad-Aware has a “Premium Version”. The free one works just fine, though.

He SHOULD be fired from his job. Not sure if he should be arrested. If you are at work and you do something to compromise their security (however lax it may be), you need to find yourself another one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Malware Tools

BullSH!ZZ, it’s The IT dept and ISS groups responsibility that the PCs on their companies network are adequately protected against malware and viruses, they should also have procedures in place to routinely scan company PCs for malware and viruses. If you no anything about Enterprise security you know you lock everything down and open up what you need as you go, not the other way around. In your car you don’t try to buckle your seatbelt as you’re colliding head on with another car, you put the seatbelt on first, and that’s the IT and ISS depts. jobs and responsibilities not this guys, now if he circumvented whatever policies and procedures they had in place to go to sites that got his PC infected then it’s his a$$, but if the people who are responsible for the security and functionality of the computers and networks at his job fail to do their jobs this guy shouldn’t be punished any more than he has, and he should definitely be compensated for lost wages, legal fees and for defamation of character.

Dr.H says:

Re: Malware Tools

Adaware and spybot cannot stand up to zombie attacks. Once executed, these bots have done their job. The fact is that the war on the Internet has been won by the bad guys and law enforcement simply arrests those too ignorant to know how to piggyback child porn on someone else’s hard drive. There have been at least 60 suicides of innocent men accused of haboring child porn. The stigma was too much: they were guilty in the eyes of over-zealous law enforcement; prosecutors; and family members.

When we protect children, we have to remember that those we accuse often have children who ALSO NEED PROTECTING. How about growing up knowing your dad killed himself? How about the fact that law enforcement often interrogates suspects in front of their children? It is sick and it has to stop.

Wayne says:

Malware, but IT ADMIN

My experience is that malware, generally is there to take things from your computer not download them to it. If it was some porn malware maybe that’s differenent. Admittly i’ve haven’t experienced them all. I would think that it would be on more then just his work computer unless he’s just super smart and knows better, but then he wouldn’t have been abused by malware. I would like to see more specifics before i make up my mind. Either way cases like this have to be kept out of the news till it’s proven one way or another. Innocent or Guilty, in the eyes of the people he will always be guilty.

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: Re:

You should hear the stories my husband tells… There was a husband and wife that ran a business. Wife calls my hubby’s company (Well, the company he works for.) and says, ‘Computer is acting up.’. He gets there and finds infestations due to porn surfing. He tries to get around telling her how the computer got messed up… But she asks him point blank. So he says it may have been pornography. Roflmao.

“Staying late at work again, honey?”

“Yes, dear, you know how the paperwork gets.”

*frying pan to head*

Anyway, tons of people look at porn at work. But it may have been the guy before him or anyone. They admitted the network was very unsafe and that the computer was not lcoked down or even updated properly before they gave it to him.

yoshi says:

issues with work machines

In a previous company it was part of my job to investigate situations like this. Nine 9 times out of 10 the individual in question was not responsible (malware, mis configured machine, ancient machine, IT screwup, etc). This is a very important point because if you are wrong – it ruins someones life AND opens us up for a lawsuit. However that 10th time – yea – people cruise porn at work, people sleep with people they aren’t supposed to, in other words people do very stupid stuff at work. This isn’t news to anyone. But its important to validate the situation, document it, and follow a reproducible procedure to make sure all parties are protected.

re: openDNS
What?!?!? you are making a recommendation based on what information? Most companies manage their own DNS or outsource it to their primary ISP. openDNS is not a valid recommendation with the information that you know.

Brian says:

I can’t believe this guy hasn’t gotten a job in over a year after the fact. I feel bad for the guy, assuming that he actually had nothing to do with the porn, but seriously, life sucks – move on.

State jobs are cushy, sure; but the pay is barely average for similar jobs in the private sector. Jobs are out there. Stop being a loser. It seems to me, given the limited information out there, that he’s just trying out pity and fraud to see how far it’ll get him.

I’d also probably guess, that unless someone else uses his computer, he was DLing the p0xRn. That’s just my humble opinion, though.

Pat S says:

RE: the stuff is planted

Law enforement and prosecutors readily trade in kiddie porn in East Texas, namely Rusk and Jacksonville Texas. Then they stick on political enemies computers and blackmail them.
1. Jacksonville TX: Lon Morris Jr. College golf coach indicted for child porn.
2. Rusk Texas teacher sentenced to 78 months for child porn.
3. Another Rusk Texas teacher sentenced to 4 years for IM a minor and child porn.
4. And another pastor and a Christian academy sentenced to 48 months for child porn.

We’ve all heard about the Mineola, TX “Swinger’s Club” and the ongoing trial for the sexual exploitation of kids.
That is East Texas for you- fake Christians and perverts in the school system. Planted there to frame people each other with their filth by the Cherokee County district attorney’s office.

Mitchell says:

I have never heard of malware that somehow put child porn, or really any kind of porn onto your computer. There may be an occasional pop-up with some nudity, but never pornography of that sort. I live in Mass and I know that they have very strict policies for state agencies, I am shocked that there wasn’t any malware prevention software on his computer. Clearly, this guy can sue the pants off the state not only for firing him, but for ruining his name.

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