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Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Julie Amero Gets More Time To Explain To Judge How Porn Popup Trojans Work

from the a-break-in-the-action dept

Back in January, there was a story about a substitute teacher, Julie Amero, facing 40 years in prison for apparently exposing children in her classroom to pornographic pictures on the classroom computer. Over the last month and a half, as more details have come out, it's becoming abundantly clear that the jury and the police involved are quite confused about what actually happened. The details certainly suggest that there was some kind of spyware that caused a series of pornographic pop ups to show up on the screen. The teacher claims she was told not to turn off the computer and didn't even know how to do so. However, she did try to shield the computer from the children, which was facing away from the children already. However, the local newspaper reports and the police involved insist that she's absolutely guilty despite plenty of evidence suggesting that she's the unfortunate victim of some nasty malware on a computer and plenty of ignorance about how computers work among those accusing her of doing something wrong. As the case has received more and more attention, Amero has added a new lawyer and received a ton of support (especially from the computer security community).

In that link above, the police detective working on the case insisted that the transcripts would show that all of the supporters of Amero were barking up the wrong tree -- but those transcripts are now available and they only seem to support the ignorance of those condemning Amero -- insisting that she must have looked at the porn intentionally, when there's plenty to suggest that's not true at all. The prosecution also keeps shifting what it's trying to prove, from her intentionally surfing porn in front of kids to the idea that because she didn't unplug the computer (which she had been forbidden from doing) she is guilty and deserves 40 years in prison. Either way, neither the local newspaper reporters nor the detective on the case seem willing to admit that they may have made a mistake in condemning this woman. However, the good news coming out recently (sent in by John) is that, at least, the judge has agreed to delay the sentencing for a month to give the new lawyer some time to get up to date on the details of the case.

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  1. icon
    livingnightmare (profile), 29 Jan 2008 @ 9:54am

    She's totally innocent

    Even with firewalls and antivirus/spyware, a user can still be infected if they don't know what they are doing. There is a spyware called "privacydanger" (or something like that), which gives the user a false report of other spyware and directs them to their website to buy antispiware software. That's not all it does though. I cleaned a system that had it on there. The web-desktop was turned on and was showing a webpage stored in a local directory. It was a picture of a biohazard sign and it said "Privacy Danger". If you didn't know it was a web page it would appear as though the desktop was changed because it was set to be behind the desktop icons. The spyware also added shortcuts to the desktop that would reappear every time you deleted them because of a registry entry. The worst thing it did was pop up porn ads all over the screen and simultaneously open web browsers that you couldn't easily close. The computer user was freaking out. It was also on her husband's computer. This was at a business too. What did they have in common? They both let their daughter on their systems and she LOVES myspace. People will comment on a user's profile with what looks like a video, but if you click it you are directed to a site that tries to install spyware on your system. You have to actually click something before its installed though. This spyware requires some sort of user interaction to get installed and a lot of anti-spyware programs don't detect things that the user has given permission to install. Someone who doesn't know what they are doing might not think anything of it, click the ok or cancel (some install when you hit cancel too) and the window closes. They don't know that they just installed the spyware.

    None of the actual anti-spyware or anti-virus apps on the systems detected the spyware. I had to download a removal tool to get rid of it.
    I think this (or something like it) is what happened to this teacher.

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