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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Overcast, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 6:38am

    That's a shame - further proof that the court system and most managers don't understand computer technology at all.

    But that's ok - I need a job, so let's not change that too much :)

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

  2. identicon
    Spectere, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    Damn the media...

    What's really unfortunate is that this incident is going to follow that poor man for his entire life thanks to the media attention throwing his name out in the wild even before he could be proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    In the eyes of the press, you're guilty. Period.

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

  3. icon
    Nick Overstreet (profile), Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:16am

    Re: Damn the media...

    Who would want to read news about some one who didn't do anything?
    The media is all about sensationalizing anything, regardless of the fact it could ruin lives.

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

  4. identicon
    Statey, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:20am

    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.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:21am

    Re: Re: Damn the media...

    Which further proves they are outright liars. If they were real "News" media they wouldn't focus on sensationalizing. But they are in the Entertainment industry, however much some may scream otherwise.

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

  6. identicon
    SD, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:21am


    People sue over less than that, I'd go after the employer, the state, and the media for dragging my name in the dirt, lost wages, and legal fees.

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

  7. identicon
    BillGod, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:23am

    Really child porn malware??

    I have dealt with many many many computers infected with all kinds of malware. Never have I come across any that download child porn on to your pc. Sounds like it was just a good excuse to get out of jail to me.

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

  8. identicon
    discojohnson, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:35am

    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.

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

  9. identicon
    Captain Insano, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:36am

    Yeah BillGod you are the know it all of computers. Im sure you have all the details of his machine. How the hell do you know what malware is on there? Shut your pie hole.

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

  10. identicon
    JB, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:36am

    Billgod your an idiot. You haven't ran across any that download child porn because your computer is already full of it from you own downloads that you can't see the malware adding more.

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

  11. identicon
    C$, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:38am

    It's better to be over-zealous when it comes to kiddie porn. We have to protect the kids.

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

  12. identicon
    discojohnson, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:39am


    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.

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

  13. identicon
    Can't Believe Some People, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:44am

    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

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    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.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:59am

    Re: Lawsuit...

    Have those "computer forensics experts" determine which malware site(s) was(were) responsible, what sites hosted the malware and attack THAT food-chain! They should be at least as culpable for lost wages as the State.

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

  16. identicon
    Safe browsing habits?, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 8:29am

    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.

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

  17. identicon
    Norm, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 8:37am

    Let's be honest....

    I've been in this business for 20 years and those who don't go to nefarious websites don't get this type of malware. I too have not come across a child porn malware, but that doesn't mean I don't believe it exists. Certainly I seen some very nasty (bestiality) malware!

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

  18. identicon
    interval, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    Re: A Good Reason

    That's fine for malengineers here and elsewhere in common law countries but I don't think the Russian and Chinese authors have much to worry about.

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 8:54am

    If the company had any balls at all, an apology should have been made and his job should have been given back to him. What a spineless company. Apparently, they are not accountable for their mistakes.

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

  20. identicon
    Ben W, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 9:17am

    Malware Tools

    Spybot Search & Destroy ( and Ad-Aware ( 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.

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

  21. identicon
    Jimmy, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 9:29am


    His company should be running their network with OpenDNS,
    in addition to proper security of course.

    I recommend OpenDNS to parents, especially ones with
    rebellious teenagers, and professionals alike and I use it myself and it does an excellent job of taking the trash out.

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

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 9:31am

    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.

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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    The worst thing about all this is that he was a state employee. Which means that obviously in Massachusetts state computers are vulnerable to malware, viruses and who know what else the state IT dept "failed" to protect their systems against. I'm glad i don't live in Massachusetts.

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

  24. identicon
    Wayne, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    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.

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

  25. identicon
    asdf, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:18am

    what kind of retard would have porn on their work computer anyway.

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

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:26am

    Re: Let's be honest....

    That's a dubious claim when there are reports going around that lots of mainsteam websites have been ciompromised by malware attackers.

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

  27. identicon
    Skippy T. Mut, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:59am

    This is what happens when...

    ...non-techincal people start feeling like they can make technical decisions! People need to start talking to experts and finding out what's actually going on before they go around destroying innocent people's lives! I hope he gets a big settlement when he sues the shit out of the state!

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

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:59am

    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.

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

  29. identicon
    yoshi, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 11:01am

    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.

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

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 11:12am

    Re: the american way

    State employee thus leglislature must pass apporiation bill for him to be compensated. As far as a lawsuit - state immunity.

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

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 11:22am

    Re: How did the malware get on the machine?

    While you were on a roll with assumptions, did you ever consider there could be more than one user at the same time or even prior to getting possession of the computer?

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

  32. identicon
    Brian, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 11:43am

    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.

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

  33. icon
    boomhauer (profile), Jun 18th, 2008 @ 11:54am

    Re: the american way

    haha i read this and thought you said "100,000 and never have to work again"... was thinking, wow, if you live in box maybe ;)

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

  34. identicon
    Rekrul, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 2:41pm

    Under United States law, all suspects are innocent until proven guilty.*

    *Not valid with charges of child pornography, child molestion or terrorism. Some restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Limited time offer. See your attorney for details.

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

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:46pm

    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..

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

  36. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:08pm

    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.

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

  37. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:13pm


    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.

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

  38. icon
    PaulT (profile), Jun 20th, 2008 @ 8:37am

    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...

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

  39. identicon
    Pat S, Jun 27th, 2008 @ 6:57pm

    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.

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

  40. identicon
    Dr.H, Jul 21st, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    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.

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

  41. identicon
    anonikm, Nov 7th, 2008 @ 2:51pm

    new file engine search!

    I surfed all the web till found the best searcher. Films, picts, mp3’s, videos and lots more at

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

  42. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Child porn on computer

    They probably wanted to get rid of him anyway.

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

  43. identicon
    Mitchell, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 7:35am

    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.

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

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