Internet crime is a growing problem. Every week, we seem to read of large scale data breaches, and spam is filling up our inboxes, despite the spam filters designed to stop it.
The spam getting past these filters is often riddled with deceptive lures (links) to all sorts of porn sites. In turn, these sites often infect machines that aren’t properly protected with adware, spyware, malware and even crimeware.
So far as properly protecting our machines, this can be a chore, also. It requires frequent updates, and new exploits are discovered all the time.
Sometimes even legitimate sites are hacked and people get infected just by surfing, or visiting (what they think) is a trusted site.
Criminals of all sorts, including those of an organized nature are getting involved in Internet crime. In fact, many believe the problem is growing because very few get caught, and even if they do, very little happens to them.
I was amazed when I got an e-mail from Alex Eckelberry (CEO Sunbelt Software) that a substitute teacher (Julie Amero) had been convicted for some porn that had shown up on a classroom computer.
A jury has already found her guilty and she could face up to 40 years in prison. Even worse, it appears the stress of the trial may have caused her to have a miscarriage.
Is her conviction a miscarriage of justice? Many computer experts (including Alex) seem to think so.
Alex writes a very convincing argument, where he states:
When I first read of the case, my reaction was how illogical it all sounded: A middle-aged, substitute female teacher accessing porn on a classroom computer, in front of her students on one particular day? It made no sense.
He’s right, it doesn’t make sense.
An article from the Norwich Bulletin stated that:
Computer expert W. Herbert Horner, testifying in Amero’s defense, said he found spyware on the computer and an innocent hair styling Web site “that led to this pornographic loop that was out of control.”
“If you try to get out of it, you’re trapped, according to Horner.”
Anyone, who has surfed the Internet knows there are a lot of malicious sites designed to lure people to click on them, using seemingly innocent lures.
She was also convicted on testimony that she must have had to physically click on the sites in question. According to Alex and other computer security experts, the pop-ups from these sites leave the same imprint as if they had been physically clicked on.
Alex wrote in the Norwich Bulletin:
The computer was also found to be riddled with spyware — programs that generate popups and degrade system stability.
Spyware may or may not have played a direct part in this incident, but the fact it was on the system creates additional damning evidence of the state of this computer system. What is extraordinary is the prosecution admitted there was no search made for spyware — an incredible blunder akin to not checking for fingerprints at a crime scene.
Alex also states that this was an old system, without adequate protection, despite the fact that federal law mandates that it should have been in place.
Julie, herself claims the website in question was accessed by students when she went to the restroom. When she noticed it, no matter what she did, more pop-ups would surface.
More on Herb Horner’s analysis (courtesy of the Sunbelt blog), here.
In a criminal case, the standard is that a person should be found innocent if there is reasonable doubt. After reading about this case, it makes sense to me, that we have a lot of reasonable doubt that Julie is guilty.
At best, the investigation used to convict her seems to have been poorly researched, and therefore, flawed.
Porn is a big component of Internet crime, which according to a WebMD survey reaches a lot of children. This research was conducted by interviewing children, themselves.
Some of the children interviewed were the same age as the ones in Julie’s class that day.
So far as a connection to real (organized) crime, porn was allegedly one of the Gambino crime families biggest earners ($350 million).
Besides being unjust, going after Julie Amero, is a big waste of resources (taxpayer dollars) that could be put to better use.