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. identicon
    Missing, 1 Mar 2007 @ 7:24pm


    OMG First?

    I'll be a witness to how porn popups work...
    I got one right now!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Chris, 1 Mar 2007 @ 7:33pm

    Who is on trial here?

    This is ridiculous the only person who should be on trial and this is a BIG maybe is the system administrator for two reason's

    1. Is it not their job to check for mal/spyware on regular basis's?

    2. why is there not some sort of URL/Net nanny filtering procedure's put in place from the server the PC should be accessing the internet from?

    If you want to play the ignorance is no excuse card, then maybe you should lock up the whole school administration for not educating their staff on how to use a pop up blocker?

    I leave with one more question, how is this crime worse in comparison to lets say murder which I'm under the impression is 25 years imprisonment if your found guilty, of wanting to kill the person (IE murder)? not by negligence which is what this case is... Negligence not by the teacher, by those actually trying to prosecute and the courts for allowing it to happen! This is nothing more than a big case of bullying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Innocent Student, 1 Mar 2007 @ 7:49pm

    Happened to me

    "This is ridiculous the only person who should be on trial and this is a BIG maybe is the system administrator"

    I totally agree. A few years ago In my senior year of high school I took a Cisco Networking class. I was researching for a project when I was attacked by hundreds of lesbian pornography popups. I was Kicked out of my Networking class and banned from ALL PC's in the school for the rest of the year (IT WAS THE FIRST SEMESTER!).

    Its a shame that people cant do the job they are payed to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Joe Schmoe, 1 Mar 2007 @ 7:57pm

    Re: Happened to me

    Maybe its because you cant spell that they threw you out of school...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 1 Mar 2007 @ 8:15pm


    I want to know how regardless of whether or not it the teacher was at fault she is facing the possibility of such a large sentence. She could have raped one of those kids in front of the rest of the class and wouldn't be facing a that much. Getting suspended from teaching for some time period would fit the crime. Perhaps getting fired but I think that is a stretch.

    And now that this case is all over the nation if she gets fired she'll have a hard time getting another teaching job. And I'm willing to bet that she will be forced to register as a sex offender which will haunt her forever.

    Well look on the bright side, at least this didn't happen to a teacher in Boston. They would have should down the city and blown up the pc just in case...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Steve, 1 Mar 2007 @ 8:18pm

    Utterly rediculous

    How did something like this even get to trial? OMG, my child saw a boob. If that's traumatizing, then their parents set them up to be complete failures at life. And 40 years? I doubt she'd be up for as much time if she had sex with half of the class.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    zcat, 1 Mar 2007 @ 8:19pm

    True story..

    I was browsing a popular tech news site and clicked on a link which caused the entire screen to fill with gay porn popups. I couldn't close browser windows faster than they were opened, and in the end I had to log off to make them go away. And I wasn't even using MSIE!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Innocent Student, 1 Mar 2007 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re: Happened to me

    "Maybe its because you cant spell that they threw you out of school..."

    Great job Trolling. If you don't have anything to say about the Article then Why are you even here.

    Where did you get the falsity that I was Thrown out of school. Maybe you should go back to school and learn how to read.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    security, 1 Mar 2007 @ 9:33pm

    Cover the PC

    It is too bad she did not think to just cover the monitor screen
    (assuming that would not have been forbidden)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2007 @ 9:36pm

    Obviously the prosocuters use typewriters

    Because there's no way they know how to even turn a computer on themselves - if they did, they would in the group of people clicking "You've won a free iPod" and "Please steal my credit card info" popups. And if they do have the basic intelligence to turn a computer on and aren't constantly infected, it's because they're lucky enough to have either an IT dept or somebody in the family (kids, friends, etc) that makes sure the system is clean...

    This is their way of making a really bad example of "Child Molesters Beware" because they can't actually catch any real criminals, they have to dig and read between every line they can - it brings attention to them and makes it look like something is being done about the real problem...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2007 @ 9:36pm

    Someone should post all of the accusers IP addresses in the main story, I am sure that someone will "Show them exactly how its done".. I mean its not that hard to do right!!.. Click here to see

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    StuCop, 1 Mar 2007 @ 10:38pm

    Re: Re: Happened to me

    who takes time to spell when hastily typing a comment...lighten up douche bag...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Ramon Casha, 1 Mar 2007 @ 10:59pm

    Someone should just...

    Someone should just sneak in and install a ton of porn adware trojans on the court clerk's computer :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Harry Halm, 2 Mar 2007 @ 12:48am


    Prosecutors are overzealous, misguided, psychologically damaged people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    malfunct, 2 Mar 2007 @ 12:49am

    40 years?

    Doesn't that seem excessive when you think that people who actually HAVE SEX with students do much less time? I love seeing how penalties are so poorly adjusted to the severity of the crime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Nick, 2 Mar 2007 @ 2:14am


    I'm one of the very many system administrators at my place of work, i can quite easily believe that the teacher is innocent. You wouldnt believe how many users i deal with that really dont have a single clue. As long as sex sells, you will find someone somewhere exploiting a system or a service... unfortunatly the innocent and niaeve are the ones that pay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, 2 Mar 2007 @ 3:29am

    Some facts about the PC

    OK - I'm not even going to comment on the fact that the best advice from someone whose website is '' is that she should have covered her monitor and is presumably implying she is therefore guilty


    Some other facts re the case

    1) The PC involved was running Windows 98 SE
    2) The PC was running IE5
    3) The PC was running a very out of date virus checker
    4) The teacher had been TOLD not to turn off or log off the machine, since as she was a teaching sub someone else would have had to log it back on for her as she did not have a log on
    5) The evidence from the defense security experts (including evidence of malware designed to open links) was deemed unadmissable as the prosecution argued there had not been full disclosure

    All told there is liability but I think that rests firmly with the schools IT dept, or whoever deemed that such out of date kit should be allowed on the internet in a school

    I think it also highlights questions re the prosecutor and detectives basic competance in even allowing the case to come so far

    Finally - even if the teacher had opened porn links intentionally 40 years is ridiculous - some of the Nazis involved in the holocaust were put away for less than that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jack Sombra, 2 Mar 2007 @ 3:58am

    From the prosecutions closing arguments

    "Finally, as you recall, I brought Detective Lounsbury back in. Exhibit 6 is hopefully trying to explain the difference in color as to the Javascript elements that he clicked on. Some of use using our common sense understand this; when you click on a webpage it transfers you over. And that changes to show that you actually accessed that page. Take this into account for intent; that the defendant purposely accessed those websites"

    That the prosecution would dare make such an argument proves the prosecutor was not qualified to prosecute this case
    That the judge allowed the prosecution to make this statement proves he was no qualified to judge this case
    That the jury accepted this statement proves they were not qualified to sit on this case

    Get this case out of Hicksville USA and it will not only be overturned but possibly leave various people open to criminal cases themselves

    What's really sad is this crap has not only cost her over 20k but is possibly one of the major causes for the loss of her unborn child

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 2 Mar 2007 @ 4:22am

    To comment #9.


    However, she did try to shield the computer from the children, which was facing away from the children already.

    And to comment #18

    What's really sad is this crap has not only cost her over 20k but is possibly one of the major causes for the loss of her unborn child

    Not only that but its safe to assume that her teaching career is ruined. All because someone wants to make an example out of her and get their name/face in the news for "protecting the children".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2007 @ 6:20am

    Re: Stupid...

    Hopefully the prosecutor will have a hard time finding a job for wasting so much of the states money. Well that and being a but head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    "ill" duce, 2 Mar 2007 @ 6:39am

    Re: Some facts about the PC

    Another fact being reported is that there are no firewalls on any of the school's computer systems.

    The sad fact is that someone got paid a hell of a lot of taxpayer money to desgin (poorly) these systems. It was probably a firend of the mayor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    JoeJoe, 2 Mar 2007 @ 6:59am


    The person at fault is the school network admin. The proxy should been set to block all that material.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    MikeT, 2 Mar 2007 @ 8:07am

    Just drop the damn case already!

    This is the sort of thing that pisses me off about the prosecutor profession. A lot of times, they just don't care if the person is guilty of a crime or not. It's just a number game to them, and they'll make a charge stick no matter how tenuous. This prosecutor doesn't even see her as a human being, just another notch on their belt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    SmartAssWhizKid, 2 Mar 2007 @ 8:10am

    Re: From the prosecutions closing arguments

    Hopefully, if she does get convicted she will appeal and an intelligent judge and jury will overturn her conviction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Jon, 2 Mar 2007 @ 8:38am

    What ever happened to people just saying "Oops, it was an accident. Shit happens" and moving on with life?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    High School Grad, 2 Mar 2007 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Happened to me

    Speaking of spelling, doesn't "cant" have an apostrophe in it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    High School Grad, 2 Mar 2007 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Happened to me

    Speaking of spelling, doesn't "cant" have an apostrophe in it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon, 2 Mar 2007 @ 8:51am

    This just emphasizes what's wrong with this country (and probably the rest of the world): stupid politicians, judges, law enforcement that just don't know what they're dealing with. How can judges and jury who know squat about technology rule cases such as this???? Blows my mind.... A.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Julie, 2 Mar 2007 @ 9:44am

    This is Ridiculous - Amero Case

    I cannot believe that this is getting so much bad publicity. This poor woman is now having to defend herself against crazy accusations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Karoli, 2 Mar 2007 @ 9:52am

    Don't miss the

    Mark Lounsbury, that paragon of truth, justice and the American Way, insists that he can PROVE that she intentionally accessed the sites:
    It continues to amaze me how people can base their opinion on what is fed to them. Did anyone ask the Expert for the evidence he recovered which would support his claims? The “curlyhairstye script”, those pornographic generated pop ups? BUNK also known as errors of commission. Would you like to know the truth? Once sentencing is over I’d be more than happy to let you see the source code, scripts, etc. (snip) I am fleshing out a theory concerning site blocking software which was in place and how to circumvent it. I can provide you w/ the source code showing all the .htm and javascripting for each web page, images from those pages, date/time of creation, MD5 hashes, etc.

    There's more here

    Don't you feel better knowing such a savvy expert is on the side of truth and justice?

    One of the backlashes of all of the publicity this verdict has received is to cause the prosecutor and this bastion of technical knowledge to dig in their heels and push back with outrageous claims against Amero -- even more outrageous than the ones they used in court, while the IT administrator for that district sits idly by and makes even more outrageous claims in court, like he's never once seen or heard of popups filling a computer screen.

    That testimony alone should have acquitted Amero instead of convicting her. he must be the only person on the planet who hasn't. Or he's lying. You make the call.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Mickey, 2 Mar 2007 @ 12:47pm

    Why Aren't the School Administrators On Trial>

    What does it matter who the substitute teacher was? This was a school computer that had access to pornographic sites. This means children in that classroom, and I assume in other classrooms of that school, can access such filth at any time -- and for all I know can probably still do so now. That is the real crime, and the school is totally at fault.

    I hope Ms Amero's new lawyer is planning plenty of countersuits against every school official who sacrificed her to cover up their own ignorance and incompetence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Joe Smith, 2 Mar 2007 @ 1:29pm


    Completely ridiculous. Who else had access to the machine that was always on - a class full of horny 12 year old boys, the school custodian and who knows how many others.

    Over the years dealing with computers I have seen one example of uncontrollable porn pop-ups. It may be rare but it does happen. In my case it was a computer sitting in a spare office at the law firm where I work. I went in and turned it on and it was unuseable with the flood of pornographic ads that kept popping up. I had never used that computer before so no jokes about this being the consequence of my own surfing habits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 2 Mar 2007 @ 11:27pm

    Kill the monitor

    Any Admin who still thinks that 98SE + IE5 is secure or unlikely to be full of crap is a moron. HE should at least have been using FF2, which ahs a better pop-up blocker.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 3 Mar 2007 @ 3:27am

    Re: Kill the monitor

    the moronic admin should have explained how toturn off the monitor.

    He should also have been using some form of proper security (even if it was freeware). His employment contract should be being reviewed. The teacher who normally used that computer should be investigated as well.

    With the right setup, FF2 (and possibly can be configured to open all pop-ups in a single seperate window, over-riding the page controls, so that when the flood subsides, the window can be closed.

    Were the pop-ups generated by a web page or by a program on the computer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    ROMVS, 3 Mar 2007 @ 1:17pm

    Retarded low enforcement officers

    Our local police force wouldn't make this same mistake. Where did they come up with these prosecutors and low enforcers? And no, low is not mispelt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Fat Savage, 10 Mar 2007 @ 7:51am

    This is just the first and second of many!

    This is just the first of many. In brief you charge a man with kiddie porn and show 500 of the nastiest pictures in the world at 2 second intervals to 12 computer illiterate mothers of young children. The expert from Washington testified that they were on his computer, there was no such thing as Trojans delivering porn, spawned windows never show up in the index.dat file, that index.dat files couldn't be corrupted, Trojans wouldn't work on dial-up and the earth was really flat. They won the case even though the computer expert for the defense did a credible job of explaining Trojans, hijacks etc to the functionally illiterate jury.

    If you want to follow the porn case in the United States Virgin Islands, which will end up in the 3rd Court Court of appeals, It's described on my blog starting at

    In the mainland, you have a network to support you, in the islands there is no Joe across the hall to ask for help. We are all alone yet what happens here is American Judicial law which sets precedents for the nation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Mar 2007 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Happened to me

    spelling and punctuation are different


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Mirabella, 3 Apr 2007 @ 11:07am

    It could be you

    Imagine anybody goes to a site, any site and porn starts popping up, the kid kind, they can lock you up and throw away the key and nobody will speak up for you.

    This woman cannot be allowed to be punished for this, the companies that peddle rapid fire popups should be sued, all of them no matter what they pop up, because if a person is sent to jail for something that they did not initiate (if someone sends you a dead guy's head, do you go to jail?) we are all just sitting ducks

    What is happening to this woman is just the beginning if outrage is not felt then little by little anyone can be drowned in a legal nightmare at a moments notice.

    This used to happen at my old college, a dirty old man would use a computer and when he would leave, everyone in the lab would wait (giggling) for someone to pick the pornoputer, then about 5 minutes in the person would jump....wiggle and scramble..., each person reacted differently some ran for help, some turned off the monitor, some just ran,(laughter followed) but then someone would go and attempt to clean the computer.

    it got me once in the beginning

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Chris Berman, 4 Apr 2007 @ 9:27am

    Amero Case

    I had read that police candidates in both Norwich and New London who score high on intelligence tests are disqualified as applicants. This case certainly confirms this!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    julio, 4 Apr 2007 @ 10:07am

    usa lesbians

    she is a usa lesbian so they are giving her special privilege to keep her out of prison

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2008 @ 8:55am

    I had an ICT class (yeah ICT, worthless, I know) in school once, back when I was 14-15 or so. I fell into a porn trap while following a link from wikipedia (I think the domain must've been re-registered or something). Porn popups abound, opening up more as I closed them etc...

    Teacher came over and asked wtf was going on, I told her that I wasn't looking at porn, I just fell prey to some pop-ups.

    She just laughed it off, told me to restart the computer, and be more careful in the future.

    I know the UK views sex/censorship of sex a lot differently to the US (in legal terms at least), but is it really *that* different? I'm only 19 so this was like, 5 years ago tops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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