Connecticut Teacher - Spyware Trial

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Connecticut Teacher - Spyware Trial

Kevin R. Smith

For anyone not tracking this spyware story, you should be.

It's the tale of Julie Amero, 7th grade Connecticut substitute teacher.

Ms. Amero had taken charge of a language class (not even hers, mind you, but that of another teacher) and wanted to integrate, as teachers are supposed to do, technology into the classroom. Regrettably, when she did, the computer, probably infected by spyware of some kind, began displaying porn pics.

She tried to block students from seeing the screen and pictures; she tried to get help (none came).

What happened next will make your head spin: she found herself not just charged, but guilty, of four counts(!!) of "injury to a minor" or "impairing the morals of a child"!

Now I ask you, good reader, if you were using someone else's computer for the first time--even if you were literally an antivirus / anti-spyware programmer, how could you possibly know the computer was free of such malware?!

Answer: you can't. It's literally impossible.

In a school, business, or industry setting especially, one has reasonable expectations that the computers are in proper order and safe to use. If not and if everyone were responsible for running their own virus scans with each use, the world as we know it would grind to a screeching halt.

It would be akin to having to run your own diagnostic checks your own brakes, engine, and transmission before starting your car each day. For those of you familiar with running antivirus software, when you're running a scan manually, it takes--at a minimum--a few minutes for a scan to complete even for the best antivirus software on the market.

Imagine Ms. Amero had to say to her 7th graders, "OK, class. Everyone sit still in your seats for 10 minutes while Ms. Amero runs an antivirus check so we can use the Internet." We're joking, right?

That's not what the biscuitheads in Norwhich, Connecticut, would say. Oh, no. They fault Ms. Amero fully for the children being exposed to the pictures.

Needless to say, charges should have never been brought.

  • If they were, they should have been dropped.
  • If they weren't dropped, it should have been tossed out by the judge.
  • If they weren't, the jury should have had sense to bounce the charges out themselves.
  • And, for that matter, the prosecution should have realized this was truly a case of someone being caught up in a dragnet that shouldn't have been.

    Sorry, kids, no dice. On all counts.

    Apparently, though, this is a something akin to a situation as portrayed in the Mel Brooks' movie "Spaceballs", when Dark Helmet, played by Rick Moranis, just about sums it up.

(Warning: what some consider "adult" language is shown in this clip. Local, state, and federal laws and such might just apply. This means don't watch it if you're not 18.)

That no one anywhere at these various checkpoints had the presence of mind to "just say no," is truly staggering to me. Staggering. What's most offensive of all to me perhaps is, as the writer puts it so well in Asia One, the source of this story,

"Ms. Amero appears to have been let down by the school. The computer had a program installed on it that was designed to filter out trash. But the license had not been renewed, so the filter had not been updated.

"The porn may have got through anyway. No filter is ever going to keep the bad guys out. But if you're going to install software like that you really need to make sure it's updated.

"I've seen enough of this to know how easy it is to get infected by this stuff, and how hard it is to get it off."

Wait just a cotton pickin' minute here, she's being blamed, and:

  1. The very software designed to block porn had been allowed to expire!?
  2. It's not even her classroom.
  3. She did her best to block the screen from the class.
  4. She called for help from the school and none came
  5. She wasn't an IT professional but a teacher

And she's still guilty?!?!

Please, please, please, someone is joking. right?

If your hair isn't already on end, let me add this little ditty about, Julie Amero in PCWorld.

Turns out

  1. Most of her expert witness' testimony was blocked
  2. her defense attorney failed to disclose the expert's findings to the prosecution pre-trial
  3. the judge disallowed a "A milk crate full of Microsoft documentation on how the Internet Explorer worked"
  4. Laptops to recreate the scene were disallowed because the judge refused to grant unrestricted access of the Internet to the defense

Calgon take me away. Someone stop this runaway train before someone gets really hurt here. Nope.

And, as the last insult to injury here (from the PCWorld story):

"He had come to the same conclusion that both I and the defense team did....The bottom line: If the state used the forensic examiner and not Lounsbury it would have been readily apparent that Julie was not surfing for porn."

Thanks, justice system for failing. Everyone involved at this point gets an F-

Thankfully, last summer after a new defense team took over and presented their evidence, the conviction was overturned.

What stinks about the whole thing most--aside from the travesty of justice along the way--is that it really means no matter how obscure something may be, it's now up to you to protect you computer (and in doing so yourself!): apparently true ignorance of something is no longer an acceptable defense.


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