Could a Spyware Ridden Machine Get you 40 Years in Jail?

As anyone who has ever read this blog knows, I always try to tie these spyware, adware posts back to my friends from Zango, those guys who never do anything wrong, it’s always an affiliate or another website. While Zango is not mentioned, I bet money one of their programs was installed, hehe. But I just read this article from Computer World by Preston Gralla, Porn-surfing teacher: Spyware made me do it!, who obviously should not be posting about spyware, as it appears he does not have a clue and his blog post is a complete joke.

A recent court case found a Connecticut substitute teacher guilty of surfing for pornographic sites in front of her seventh grade class, and now, she faces 40 years in prison. Wow, forty years, I was watching something on TV the other night where two guys killed someone and the max they could and did get was 15 years. But this teacher could get forty years? That is just plain wrong. Anyone who is involved in anyway with school systems know, most teachers aren’t prepared for something like this, the teacher was probably as overwhelmed and shocked as the students were when it happened and was just trying to get them to close down. And if it has happened to you, when you click the x to close a popup, one or many more can popup on you, making it look like you may have actually clicked on the popup itself.

Not only that, the prosecutor wanted to know, but if in fact spyware was on the PC, why didn’t the teacher merely turn off the computer or pull the plug on it?

Julie Amero had no answer.

Lawyers have come up with some novel defenses over the years, including the “Twinkie defense” in which a lawyer argued that defendant Dan White’s eating of Twinkies and drinking Coca-Cola proved that he was depressed, and so not responsible for his actions in murdering San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. The defense was partially successful; White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.

Luckily, it seems as if the spyware-made-me-do-it defense doesn’t cut it in court. For once, justice prevails. Source: Porn-surfing teacher: Spyware made me do it!

A substitute teacher is just that a substitute, and has not been in similar situations, and probably had no idea unplugging the machine or turning off the projector would have been the best way out, plus, the school system has to have content filtering in place to be able to get E-rate money to help fund all of the computers, internet access, etc. The school systems filters should’ve prevented most porn sites from popping up to start with, so, why isn’t the school system on trial and not the teacher?

And according to a quote from Alex Eckelberry, who is President of Sunbelt Software, they didn’t even check for spyware.

The court actions of the case were flawed as well. For example, one source reports that the Trial Judge, Hillary Strackbein, was seen falling asleep during proceedings and made comments to the jury that she wanted the case over by the end of the week. It was also reported that Judge Strackbein attempted to pressure the defense into an unwanted plea deal, in place of a trial. The defense attorney for Amero, moved for a mistrial shortly before closing arguments Friday, based on reports that jurors had discussed the case at a local restaurant.?

Was justice done here? A bad spyware infestation can splatter a machine full of porn popups and it?s a bit unnerving to think that a teacher could get hard prison time for something that was likely to have been completely innocent.

We need far more evidence than what is available to come to the conclusion that “justice was done”. In fact, all the available evidence shows quite the opposite — that this might just be a grave miscarriage of justice. Source: Alex Eckelberry

I have recently had the chance to attend several classes on computer forensics, so sure, the police found evidence that those sites were visited, but ANY window that is opened on the computer will show up in the cache and list of websites visited. The fact that neither the defense nor the prosecution tried to show how it happened is incomprehensible to me. If it was one website that caused this to happen, it would be so easy for them to repeat what happened. This quote from computer crimes investigator in an article on the Norwhich Bulletin is very telling,

“You have to physically click on it to get to those sites,” Smith said. “I think the evidence is overwhelming that she did intend to access those Web sites.” Source: Teacher guilty in Norwich porn case

You do NOT have to click on any link, it can be loaded from spyware apps, malware, or other malicious websites, it can be loaded from a website, that was loaded in a popup, from a website that was loaded in another popup, from another website that was loaded in a popup, and as the saying goes, on and on and on. This is just a case of one investigator only having the tools to do forensic investigation and not the knowledge of how a computer works to go along with it. Anyone involved in the Julie Amero case feel free to leave me a message at 304-521-2582 or an email to webmaster at with “Julie Amero case” as the subject and I will be happy to explain how this could happen with the teacher only opening one “innocent” webpage on her computer. The 40 years should go to the spyware makers or to the school system, not this substitute teacher.

2 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Jimmy Daniels - January 13, 2007 at 12:25 am

Categories: Computer Forensics, Education, Malware, Protect Children Online, Security, Spyware Info   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Spam Doubles, is this Spam 2.0?

Just read this article on the NYTimes website called Spam Doubles, Finding New Ways to Deliver Itself, and the second paragraph says “Spam is back”, but what I want to know is, when and where did it go that it is now back? Spam hasn’t slowed down at all for me, at least on the accounts that get spam, I still have a couple that are pretty much spam free, so there spammers, stick that in your botnet and smoke it. I have noticed a big spike in image spam, and those are the bad ones as they know you looked at the email because the image has to load. By default, I make sure the displaying of images is turned off, so that does help keep them from knowing whether I opened it our not. Don’t mistake me, I hardly ever open it, but some of the titles make it hard not to, especially if you are using the internet for anything much at all.

You?re not the only one. Spam is back ? in e-mail in-boxes and on everyone?s minds. In the last six months, the problem has gotten measurably worse. Worldwide spam volumes have doubled from last year, according to Ironport, a spam filtering firm, and unsolicited junk mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 e-mail messages sent over the Internet.

Much of that flood is made up of a nettlesome new breed of junk e-mail called image spam, in which the words of the advertisement are part of a picture, often fooling traditional spam detectors that look for telltale phrases. Image spam increased fourfold from last year and now represents 25 to 45 percent of all junk e-mail, depending on the day, Ironport says. Source: NYTimes

Nowadays, spammers are using botnets to send spam, so that defeats a couple of the ways anti-spam organizations fought spam, by analyzing the reputation of the sender and it makes using blacklists of known junk emailers kind of useless. It also allows them to send many more spam messages because the spam is coming from thousands of computers and not just a few and they are using someone else’s bandwidth. And by using images instead of text messages, one CTO says they moved spam into their blind spot. They can change each individual email message just a little bit to confuse anti-spam filters that look for the same message over and over, a technique that could instantly thwart spam email in the good old days.

But don?t spammers still have to link to the incriminating Web sites where they sell their disreputable wares? Well, not anymore. Many of the messages in the latest spam wave promote penny stocks ? part of a scheme that antispam researchers call the ?pump and dump.? Spammers buy the inexpensive stock of an obscure company and send out messages hyping it. They sell their shares when the gullible masses respond and snap up the stock. No links to Web sites are needed in the messages.

Though the scam sounds obvious, a joint study by researchers at Purdue University and Oxford University this summer found that spam stock cons work. Enough recipients buy the stock that spammers can make a 5 percent to 6 percent return in two days, the study concluded.

I hadn’t noticed those penny stock emails don’t link to anything, this is ingenious in its sick little way, being able to make a 5 or 6 % return in just two days is probably well worth it for the spammers.

Some antispam veterans are not optimistic about the future of the spam battle. ?As an industry I think we are losing,? Mr. Peterson of Ironport said. ?The bad guys are simply outrunning most of the technology out there today.?

And they will keep winning as long as people still fall for their scams and messages, as long as users click on the links or buy the stock, spam will be here to stay and will probably get worse. It’s sad to say it, but right now education is the key. Once they no longer make money from it, it will peter out and slow down, but that day is a long way away, most users don’t care, don’t understand or just don’t pay attention when you try to teach them good computing practices. What is the solution? Complete revamping of the email system, which is easier said than done.

As a side note, the way spammers are using botnets should show everyone how well large groups of computers can do things together, as evidenced by the Seti project and a few other distributed computer projects.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Jimmy Daniels - December 6, 2006 at 6:09 pm

Categories: Botnets, Education, Spam   Tags:

Video Games in School?

Why yes, if this report has anything to say about it. Apparently, 59% of teachers would consider using video games in school while 62% of students wanted games in school. They surveyed 1,000 teachers and 2,300 students.

The Teaching with Games report was commissioned by games giant Electronic Arts (EA) and carried out by FutureLab.

Jules Clarkson, international marketing director at Electronic Arts, said: “EA has recognised for a long time the potential for computer games to stimulate teachers and students.

“We now have the evidence.”

Can you say du huh, I knew that you could. I didn’t see anything where they actually tested to see if they were useful, etc, this sounds like it was just a survey, and any survey can go your way depending on how you ask the questions.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Jimmy Daniels - October 3, 2006 at 11:52 am

Categories: Education, Video Games   Tags: