13 January 2007

You now run a risk of a 40 year jail sentence from using Windows

A jury in Norwich, CT has handed a felony conviction that could net 40 years prison time for a spyware infestation. And the accounts I have read, no way did the prosecution prove that the pornographic popups were not the result of spyware or malware. Any skilled computer administrator knows that spyware can indeed easily trigger an unrequested barrage of automated popup pages.
Oct. 19, 2004, while substituting for a seventh-grade language class at Kelly Middle School, Amero claimed she could not control the graphic images appearing in an endless cycle on her computer.

"The pop-ups never went away," Amero testified. "They were continuous."

The Web sites, which police proved were accessed while Amero was in the classroom, were seen by as many as 10 minor students. Several of the students testified during the three-day trial in Norwich Superior Court to seeing images of naked men and women.

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," Horner said.

Outrage over this obvious miscarriage of justice has spread across the net.

There are accounts that the judge in this case was seen falling asleep during proceedings and made comments to the jury that she wanted the case to end by the end of the week, dismayed that a plea arrangement was not accepted by the defense.

It is sickening that prosecutors are permitted to get away with this abusive act. A lot of reports, including the hometown Norwich Bulletin, focused on why the plug wasn't pulled sooner, but there are also reports teachers at this school were prohibited by policy from turning off school computers and she told four other teachers and the school's assistant principal about the popup problem, and nobody responded with help. Also, the school's internet filter license had expired, and the detective in the investigation was quoted in one local paper's account as saying "there was no search made for adware, which can generate pop-up advertisements". Unbelievably insane how this woman was railroaded.

Even computer industry journalists are not immune to the grip of gross stupidity either — follow the thread here where a Computerworld editor and his ignorance are taken to task by the followup comments.

Beyond the travesty here, even if she did engage in a critical ethical lapse by browsing content not suitable for children and inadvertently displaying it, that would be grounds for dismissal, not a felony conviction.

Friends don't let friends use Windows. I think if I was a teacher, I wouldn't step foot into any classroom with Windows computers where an incident like this, something totally out of my control, could ruin my life.

There is always more to the story, but it sure sounds like the school went in search of a scapegoat, or a lustful prosecutor eagerly eyed this case as one that solidified him as an anti-porn champion.