Monday, January 22, 2007

Really? You don't say.

Julie Amero is a substitute teacher in Connecticut. Apparently during one seventh-grade class, her computer popped up with dozens of pornographic images, which the kids saw and reported. She was convicted of "four felony counts of 'injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children.'" Each count has a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

The defense tried arguing that a great deal of malware was responsible for the flood of pornographic pop-ups--a possibility the police didn't even check. Their expert witness, Herb Horner, determined "that the machine had been infected with multiple pieces of malicious software before she arrived at the school, and that these hidden programs were responsible for the pornographic deluge." The expert witness for the prosecution, Detective Mark Lounsbury, "a computer crimes officer at the Norwich Police Department", ran a program called ComputerCOP Pro to analyze the activity of the machine Ms. Amero was using. He countered that Ms. Amero was clearly guilty because--get this--the computer visited porn websites.
ComputerCOP scans the hard drive and reports on when each file was created or modified. Lounsbury says he is satisfied that Amero intentionally viewed porn in class because the logs show that her computer accessed various inappropriate sites while she was sitting at the computer.

"I take that at face value," Lounsbury told Alternet. "It's evidence. It speaks for itself. The pop-up defense is a Twinkie defense."

Lounsbury said that Amero must have navigated to pornographic sites in order to have infected her computer with obscene popups. "You've got to get that ball rolling," he said.

That defense transforms this from tragedy to farce. I am personally offended by that statement.

The article specifies that ComputerCOP "is not designed to definitively distinguish between user-generated clicks and the effects of malware." Saying that the computer "accessed various inappropriate sites while she was sitting at the computer" means nothing other than that porn popped up on the screen, which nobody has denied. Obviously the computer visited these sites, but that doesn't mean that Ms. Amero did so herself. On the contrary, Horner discovered that a "program called Pasco showed that malware had automatically redirected Amero's browser. Horner stressed that this particular form of hijacking is invisible to ComputerCOP Pro."

Via Tom Tomorrow

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