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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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More Details Emerge in the Julie Amero Case

Ever since substitute teacher Julie Amero was convicted last month of exposing her students to pornography on her classroom computer, bloggers have been debating who’s to blame, with most siding with her. Now, a published interview with a tech consultant who analyzed the Internet user logs for the day of the incident raises some difficult questions about potential failures of the school’s IT department.

The blog Network Performance Daily, which has been following the Amero case closely, published an interview with Internet consultant Herb Horner. Horner analyzed the user logs of the PC accessed by Amero, but was not allowed to present all of his findings to the jury.

Note: I’ve removed the URLs of websites referencing porn.

On October 19, 2004, around 8:00 A.M., Mr. Napp, the class’ regular teacher logged on to the PC because Julie Amero being a substitute teacher did not have her own id and password. It makes sense that Mr. Napp told Julie not to logoff or shut the computer off, for if she did she and the students would not have access to the computer. The initial user continued use of the PC and accessed Tickle.com, cookie.monster.com, addynamics.com, and adrevolver.com all between 8:06:14 - 8:08:03 AM. During the next few moments Julie retrieved her email through AOL.

[Link] was accessed at 8:14:24 A.M., based upon the hair style images uploaded to the PC we were led to believe that there were students using the computer to search out hair styles. The user went to http://www.crayola.com at 8:35:27 A.M. The user continued accessing the original hair site and was directed to [link]. This site had pornographic links, pop-ups were then initiated by [link]. There were additional pop-ups by realmedia.com, cnentrport.net, and by 9:20:00 A.M., several java, aspx’s and html scripts were uploaded. A click on the [link] icon on the [link] site led to the execution of the [link] script along with others that contained pornographic links and pop-ups. Once the aforementioned started, it would be very difficult even for an experienced user to extricate themselves from this situation of porn pop-ups and loops.

All of the jpg’s that we looked at in the internet cache folders were of the 5, 6 and 15 kB size, very small images indeed. Normally, when a person goes to a pornographic website they are interested in the larger pictures of greater resolution and those jpgs would be at least 35 kB and larger. We found no evidence of where this kind of surfing was exercised on October 19, 2004.

According to this interview, it would seem that Horner believes that the chain of events leading to the appearance of pornographic images began with accidental access to a porn site bearing a similar name to a legitimate site. His remarks regarding the size of the images also suggest that the offending images were pop-up images rather than the full-size images one would expect to find when purposefully visiting a particular site.

Horner goes on to comment on his inability to present all of these findings to the jury, and its impact:

We asked the prosecution to arrange for the defense to have unfettered access to the internet so that we could reenact the events of October 19, 2004. It was not granted. I went to court with two laptops and a box full of reference material prepared to very clearly illustrate what happened to Julie Amero. But, the prosecution objected because they were not given “full disclosure” of my examination. I was allowed to illustrate two screens, that of the [link], and [link] sites.

This was one of the most frustrating experiences of my career, knowing full well that the person is innocent and not being allowed to provide logical proof.

If there is an appeal and the defense is allowed to show the entire results of the forensic examination in front of experienced computer people, including a computer literate judge and prosecutor, Julie Amero will walk out the court room as a free person.

Let this experience stand as a warning to all that use computers in an environment where minors are present. The aforementioned situation can happen to anyone without fail and without notice if there is not adequate firewall, antispyware, antiadware and antivirus protection. That was not provided by the school administration where Julie Amero taught.

Brian Boyko, blogger at Network Performance Daily, considers the implications of these events and wonders what it means to IT managers:

There’s tons of commentary on the web railing about the outcome of the Julie Amero case itself, but what I think we need to talk about is, what does it mean for IT?

This case hints at a possible “worst case scenario” for IT departments and network managers in particular: will IT ultimately be held responsible, just as Julie Amero was, for the material that gets distributed over their network?

Today, IT isn’t just responsible for uptime - they’re also, in many ways, responsible for the experience of end-users of the network. In the Amero case, this appears to have been taken a bit too far. In this case, there was no record of network activity during and before the event. If the computer could have been shown to access some of the offending Web sites before Ms. Amero entered the classroom that morning, for example, it would have been powerful evidence for the defense. If the pornography sites were only being loaded after Ms. Amero walked in, it would seem powerful evidence for the prosecution. Either way, this case would have been better served if there was an existing record of what packets were downloaded when.

While Boyko’s post doesn’t specifically address school technology directors, it easily could have done so. I haven’t seen a huge amount of discussion from the IT management perspective, but that may change, particularly if she is given a prison sentence. Whether you blame Amero or not for what happened, there’s no denying that the network in place that day allowed pornographic images to appear on the computer screen. If incidents like this happen again - and they will, no doubt - will schools’ IT departments find themselves guilty of negligence? -andy

Filed under : People, Policy, Safety


Thank you for your coverage; if you plan to do any follow-up, I’ll be happy to share any information we’ve uncovered.

— Brian Boyko
— Editor, Network Performance Daily.

I really feel I need to comment. This trial has all the earmarks of a kangaroo court, or justice fitting of some uncivilized nation. That the defense was barred from presenting the most obvious and logical of arguments is infuriating. I write because the same thing happened in our household. Whenever we would access the MSN home page, disgusting porn pop-ups would appear and there was no getting rid of them. We have young kids in the house that frequently open my wife’s computer. Fortunately, we saw the problem and addressed it before any “damage” was done. The solution? Remove and re-install MSN software. Apparently, the adware was attached somehow to the MSN program from some point forward until we took the link away. I pray that someone in the legal system will listen, open the case again and conduct a fair, civilized trial. Not knowing all espects of the case, I can’t go so far as to declare innocence for Ms. Amero, but two things are clear - 1)it CAN happen to anyone and 2) the trial should be declared invalid.

Respectfully submitted - Larry Christianson, Oregon

Again, a travesty, a witch hunt, successful.

Mr. Napp logged on, told Julie Amero to NOT log off or turn off, and, Julie Amero left the room for a restroom break, Then, Mr. Napp, the regular teacher, left for the day, prior to her return!

7th grade students, unsupervised, roamed the web, on an old Gateway, running Microsoft’s Windows 98 on a school network that had let their firewall/AV program licenses lapse.

Julie returned, pop-ups were happening, she blocked the view, went for help, was promised by a teacher in the lounge that the Principle, Mr. Fain, would respond, which he never did, and he, plus the IT department, gets off scot free?

Now, the Detective had two hours training, via telephone, and a simple $19 program, but is suddenly proclaimed by the prosecutor to be their ‘expert’, who admits he never searched for malware on the system.

What a perfect case for judicicial and Prosecutorial
misconduct, being that the Judge Hillary Steinberg is alleged to have slept through some of the case, had instructed the jury that she wanted a quick verdict, and had attempted to coerce Julie Amero into a guilty plea bargain! It smacks of bias!

Oh, the jury was alleged to have discussed the case over lunch in the nearby diner, but, without being sworn in, stated to the Judge they had not.

This case cries for Appelate reversal. All you folks running Microsoft, should simply run a LiveCDrom, which would have got her class on the Internet, without any pop-ups, and no history!

A brief scan of the news of the day led me to the story of Julie Amero. My initial reaction was “How great a tragedy that someone’s life has been turned upside-down by an act not within her control.” Moreover, facing the idea of up to 40 years in prison for it — even if this were a true crime, is this a legitimate punishment?

I thought that before I go out and start my own crusade to “Free Julie Amero,” it would be appropriate for me to get a few more facts about the case. A quick Googling and that’s just what I got when I read your piece. I’m truly baffled by the lack of knowledge, understanding, and the willingness to accept the truth about the Internet: it PREYS on people like Mrs. Amero — constantly entering into our personal space (i.e. � our computer hard drives) carrying out tasks without showing itself, loading unwanted, harmful software and “toolbars” that do nothing but collect more data to use for commercial purposes, steal personal information, and slow your computer down to a snail’s pace. And for this, we get the first American teacher to face up to 40 years in prison � yes, prison — for something where from the facts the readers of “Windows for Dummies” could derive “reasonable doubt.”

This country needs to do something about the high-jacking of John and Jane Doe’s privacy. Companies and individuals alike are force-feeding us more junk mail, circulars, pop-up ads and unwanted email then EVER. If porn, print advertising, spam and the software programs that generate it all didn’t pump BILLIONS of the Almighty Dollar into the economy, we’d all be standing at the steps of Capitol Hill demanding that our elected officials — who supposedly represent our best interests — put an end to it all. No, REALLY, put an end to it all!

And lo, the proponents stand behind the cloaks of �free enterprise� and my personal favorite, “free speech.” Ah, the good �ol Constitution….

But what if no one wants to hear it?

Julie Amero is a sacrificial lamb to the Gods of Ignorance and Enterprise, while the greater good of the Internet continues to bear a world-wide-bad-rapp.

And Johnny Cochran is furiously tossing in his grave.

Hmm.. Why is it that people are so willing to accept the story that students accesses a malware-laden website?

Was it not Ms. Amero’s statement that she didn’t know which students were at the computer? Did the investigating officer not indicate that he was unable to locate any student who could corraborate Ms. Amero’s version of the events (except to say that they saw porn on the computer while she was sitting in front of it)?

Is it not true that Ms. Amero purposely went to dating websites and her personal email accounts - in violation of district policy which forbid using school computers for personal entertainment? Is it not true that these accounts were accessed while Ms. Amero was to be teaching a class?

Does Ms. Amero not have a computer in her home with many of the same “cookies” from these porno sites logged in? Is it not true that Ms. Amero, when interviewed by police, responded that she, “couldn’t remember” why she went to cookiemonster.com, eharmony.com, or tickle.com? Is it not true that there was less than 1 minute between Ms. Amero’s accessing of her personal AOL account and the offending “hairstyle” website?

C’mon people, malicious spyware wasn’t even part of her defense! Her statements to police (and her own attorney’s opening arguments) were that she didn’t expose children to pornography.

Note too, that Ms. Amero didn’t notify anyone (not even the teacher that was logged in) of the incident? It came to light only after 12yr old students complained to other school officials that she had been “watching naked people on the school computer.” Even by the defense’s own expert, no pornographic sites were ever logged in prior to Ms Amero’s day in front of the computer… Nor were any pornographic sites logged after her day of “teaching.” (Incidently, the computer in question was not removed from the classroom until several days later.) Why is it that the malware only became active when Ms. Amero was sitting at the computer?

Why didn’t she turn off the monitor? Throw a coat over it? Why did her students report that she simply sat at her computer for the entire period?

Finally, why hasn’t anyone actually published the transcripts of the case to reveal the details? The lead detective says:

“No one’s called or written me to ask for the facts. I have received a deluge of hate email and phone threats. I’ve returned the emails, offering the facts. I’ve returned calls to those who would leave their number, offering the facts. They just call me names and hang up. I offer the facts (in the form of recovered source code et all) to anyone who would request it. I’m not hard to find.
You have based your opinion on the disinformation fed to you by the media and by defense. As a result, the real victims have been forgotten and I have been the target of ridicule and death threats.
The verdict reached by a jury of the accused’s peers was just. The evidence presented in court was factual and forensically sound. The “clicked link” story has been turned into something other than what it is.
Once sentencing is done I intend on presenting the evidence to anyone who wants to know the truth, though I doubt the conspiracy mongers want the truth. I have explained the process of investigating these types of crimes to Network Performance Daily.
You may also read the tale spun by the Expert on the same site. I have the evidence to prove this charlatan is being less than truthful and I would appreciate someone demanding from him the source code containing the malicious active content of which he speaks. As for the trojans, viruses, worms, and adware he spoke of: what were they? when were they created locally? what do they do?? He didn’t say.
To all those of little faith who believe the Government (aka: BIG Brother) and its minions would conspire to persecute innocent, GOD fearing individuals for entertainment I say GET A GRIP.
Again, once sentencing is completed I would be very happy to share with you the evidence so that you are better able to form an educated opinion. Your missing 990 pieces of this 1000 piece puzzle.” - Mark Lounsbury

I am absolutely appalled in this day and age of technology that the answer isn’t obvious to everyone with the slightest experience with computers. I, too, shed tears for Ms. Amero and am outraged that “innocent until proven guilty” didn’t prevail.

Unfortunately, I know that she is telling the truth because almost the exact thing happened to me about 10 days ago. My husband googled “spyware” and shortly after that we had an ad for an antivirus program with pictures of graphic pornography become our homepage!!! Thank God that we discovered this and not our daughters. One of the pictures was a very young naked woman with a dog in a sexual position!! Very repulsive. I literally cried and had to leave the room and ask that my husband get rid of it. I wanted to throw the computer out the window. It can happen to anyone, uninvited. The whole thing is a tragedy.

‘Robert’ (above) asks, “Why is it that people are so willing to accept the story that students accesses [sic] a malware-laden website?”

It really doesn’t matter who accessed the malware-laden site. Even the Pope himself would have run into the same trouble considering that there is no way to definitively predict which sites contain malware before they are accessed, and on an unprotected PC, malware basically gets free reign to do what it wants anyways, despite what a user might do to attempt to curtail it.

Does Ms. Amero not have a computer in her home with many of the same “cookies” from these porno sites logged in?

What in the world does this have to do with anything? Her home PC was not on trial here.

Is it not true that Ms. Amero purposely went to dating websites…
not proven
and her personal email accounts - in violation of district policy which forbid using school computers for personal entertainment? Is it not true that these accounts were accessed while Ms. Amero was to be teaching a class?

Let’s see - Substitute teachers tend to get called into a class at the last moment, usually due to some unforeseen circumstance (such as illness). Is it unreasonable (for example) to allow a teacher (who may not have been able to communicate with her spouse via other means) the chance to send a notification to her spouse that she’s been called out and will not be at home that day? As a husband, I’d sure like to know if my wife was unexpectedly going to be away from home for the day. And such notice could hardly be characterized as ‘personal entertainment’.

Is it not true that Ms. Amero, when interviewed by police, responded that she, “couldn’t remember” why she went to cookiemonster.com, eharmony.com, or tickle.com? Is it not true that there was less than 1 minute between Ms. Amero’s accessing of her personal AOL account and the offending “hairstyle” website?

These other sites could easily have been accessed automatically (without human intervention) by a compromised browser caught up in a popup storm. The timing of it all suggests that that is, in fact, just as likely.

Note too, that Ms. Amero didn’t notify anyone (not even the teacher that was logged in) of the incident?

Not true. There was testimony from at least one other teacher that Julie asked for assistance at the time it happened, and that she reported the incident to the vice principal of the school at the end of that day.

Why is it that the malware only became active when Ms. Amero was sitting at the computer?

An individual user has zero control over when and where malware will rear its ugly head on a compromised PC.

And concerning the quote attributed to Mark Lounsbury regarding some investigative work by “Network Performance Daily”, “I have the evidence to prove this charlatan is being less than truthful…” , I (and I’m certain many others) can’t wait to see this evidence.

Bring it on.

I predict it will simply be more evidence of shoddy police work, more shirking of responsibility by the school administration, and more evidence of inexcusable ignorance of technical matters within the legal system.

I hope this issue becomes the catalyst for an overhaul in the justice and education systems.

To anyone who yet blames Ms. Amero for this incident, I say hogwash. I spent five minutes researching this case, and I can tell you that I’ve heard enough.

I am willing to lay my livelihood on the line right now. A scan run on the computer in question absolutely will find multiple instances of various sorts of malware. This computer was a mess. It sounds exactly like something a client would bring me to fix. Once, and once only, because after that I would insist that it was time to get a new PC (Windows 98 is over, time to move on), and I would kit it out with all the anti-nonsense security software they’d need.

This is a travesty and a stupid, stupid disaster. I do hope that it does not stand.

Prosecutorial and judicial misconduct have become pandemic in this country, and this is just one more hideous example. It sounds as if Ms. Amero might not have had the sharpest legal minds on her side — incompetent representation is yet another rampant problem. If her attorneys did not completely blow the pre-trial-motion phase of her trial, and if she can assemble a competent legal team, she should be able to beat this rap in appeals court, or at least win another trial. But by that time, who knows if the computer will have been adequately secured and protected from removal of the spyware that might or might not have been present on the day in question. In the meantime, Ms. Amero should SUE THE LIVING TAR OUT OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM AND THE STATE FOR NOT ADEQUATELY PROTECTING THEIR COMPUTER SYSTEMS.

Rob, I totally agree. To me, this is all just an absolute load of well, crap really. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, because in the end it all comes down to the thug who sits at the front banging a piece of wood against another piece of wood.

For one, Windows 98 is vulnerable to every piece of malware in the history of malware.

Thats my view anyway.

“Why didnt she turn off the monitor? Throw a coat over it? “

Mr Lounsbury, you may resent being ridiculed, but I have to say that perhaps you deserve it. Had she followed you advice, the consequences may have been infintely more serious than a trivial bit of porn -and might have included a ruined building and multiple loss of life.

In my 15+ years in IT I have seen only two serious fires, and one of those which completely gutted the room was caused by heat-insulating material (paper waste) being stacked on-top of a CRT monitor.

I appreciate that I am making an Ad Hominem argument inasmuch as your (nigh-unbelievable) lack of understanding of fire-safety bears no relation to this case. Nevertheless I do think this statement of yours brings serious doubts onto your competence to prosecute any IT-related case.

@ Ian

True, throwing a coat over the computer WOULD do more harm than good, but he also mentioned turning off the monitor.

However, I agree that the teacher is being unfairly prosecuted. First: Windows 98 is (as already mentioned) highly vulnerable to virus’s in this day and age. Second: A blocker such as Bess would block most of the pop-ups, but no record of a school-wide site blocker was mentioned of being used, so hit one for the school. Third: The computer was not up to date on any anti-virus or anti-pop up programs and the already-existing ones were out-of-use thanks to the license expiring (or perhaps not even being in there period) so another hit for the school. Lastly, the Vice/Principal who claimed that s/he would do something about this has not lived up to that, which also means another hit for the school.

Three strikes of not doing what the school was supposed to do in situations involving computers or faculty. In my view, it boils down to the school not being protected enough or well-informed.

The public school system pressures teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum then gets angry when it goes awry. At one time or another everyone has encountered unwarranted pop-ups of a questionable nature. To surf the internet is to sort through the junk in quest of solicited information. Whether or not the teacher in question is guilty or innocent (my opinion is that she probably shouldn’t have been on sites that were not necessary for her to function as an educator), isn’t 40 years a bit steep? Ban her from the public school system, but do not take away freedom for a possible unintentional act that occurred under questionable circumstances.
School systems also need to re-evaluate Internet policies and propose initiatives to curtail incidents like this from being repeated time and again, because sooner or later they will.

As a substitute teacher, I can say two things about the way she handled the situation. The kids should never have been left alone in the first place. It’s spelled out in all sub contracts. The consequences can be reprimand to all out firing depending on severity. In this case, left alone for three or four minutes sounds like its reprimandable.

Second and this goes to probable cause, in a situation where you are trying to keep a handle on a class while something interrupts normal procedure, students become even rowdier than normal.

Imagine the situation if you will, 25 eleven and twelve year olds who already dislike her naturally because she is a sub and an adult—try subbing for a day in a school that does not have your kid and you will understand how hard it is to keep kids under control. Then add in porn popups where every boy in class is suddenly trying to crowd you while every girl in class is either commenting or feeling ashamed (they especially get that way when boys start discussing their feminine qualities). So now the teacher has to get them to sit while trying to block their view while quieting the kids and on top of that she is just trying to close the sites. Me personally if I saw malware like that I’d know to push the shutdown and get some help, but even some of the most computer savvy would freak out at that point and might not be level headed enough to remember that little screen button, the one most of us never touch because our computer has an auto on and an auto off for the screen. I’ll give you 25 reasons why her freaking out about the porn probably got worse instantly, they are all sitting behind her making noise about what was on the screen. Plus, if they were sixth or seventh graders they still haven’t learned the details of personal space that other kids understand so they were also probably crowding her at that point.

As a computer savvy individual and someone who usually keeps their cool in most situations I can tell you that the mixture of those two problems could create a mental meltdown like you would not believe and all those things you think you know suddenly fly out the the window, heck it’s hard enough not to tell the kids shut up when they have frustrated you to the point of exhaustion. I’m not sure I would have handled the situation any differently and I have three years experience working with computers and five with kids.

Ultimately the problem with this whole situation lay at the feet of probable cause. In most criminal act cases the prosecutor has to prove probable cause and the judge will remind the jury of this. But for some reason when it comes to sexual predation or sexual misconduct around minors they forget this probable cause issue. A man who pees in public gets public intox if an adult sees him, but if a kid sees suddenly they are a class c felony even if it was accidental. That’s not how our laws work but the way our system has been working the last couple of years that is how “justice” and I use the term loosely, is applied in America. The issue is probable cause and intent. Neither of which the prosecutor ever actually proved, and the judge should have thrown out the case instantly.

When I sub, the computer goes on ONLY with a LiveCDrom of Knoppix or SimplyMepis running it, so it is immune to the “114,000 Microsoft Virus Definitions” and any un-wanted popups!

Also, upon reboot, all info goes “poof”, and no trace is left on the hard drive!

Very tough to ‘prove’ anything that doesn’t exist and is not on the drive! But, many middle school kids do also have their own FREE copies, from http://livecdlist.com

They know they are able to use it to bypass any of the weak school servers that run any of the Microsoft OSes. Yes, school boards composed of ordinary elected citizens are ignorant about so many things!

Modern computer OSes, CIPA, and other needs are just the tip of the iceberg of the ignorance!

As an IT professional who works in a school district IT shop, and who previously worked for a police department, I feel that I have some unique insight into this story.

Most police departments take their most tech literate investigator, give him some forensic software, and send him to whatever schooling is offered by the publisher of the forensic software. Most (not all) officers will seek additional training, especially in states that require continuing ed hours for police officers (such as Minnesota POST hours). For whatever reason, most police departments are unwilling to use outside experts (police departments will give a variety of reasons, some legit, some questionable) during the course of the investigation. From the departments perspective, this officer becomes their “expert”, and these officers do the best they can within their understanding of technology, and the tools and training they are given. I do not doubt for an instant that Officer Lounsbury believes that his evidence proves what he says it proves (the software vendors do a GREAT job of convincing you their software produces irrefutable evidence!!), and if the prosecutor is doing their job they have done everything they can to reinforce that idea in his mind. It is his job to not express any doubt about his evidence on the stand. I can also tell you that the reality is that local police departments across the nation have been tasked with investigating these types of cases, but have little idea what they are dealing with. In one local school district here in MN a deputy from the local Sheriff’s dept came into a school with a warrant to investigate some email threats that originated from the school. He intended to seize their main file server, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with their email system. It took some quick phone calls by that IT staff to straiten things out!!

Officer Lounsbury did his job exactly as he should have. He used the investigative tools at his disposal to gather the evidence they were designed to gather. He determined that, yes pornography had been viewed on that computer within the confines of the school district, within site of children. Thereby a crime HAD BEEN COMMITTED. At that point he presents the evidence he has to the prosecutor’s office and it is the prosecutor’s job to decide whether to file charges.

In the case of our school district, we have our own data forensics software and hardware. We make a drive image of the suspect drive and do our own forensics on the image. In cases involving porn we check FIRST for spyware. Despite spending many thousands of dollars per year on filters, firewalls, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software/hardware we still get at least 3 or 4 calls per year from teachers who have porn pop-up storms. We randomly screen our logs for access to porn sites, and have learned to look at this log data in context to determine if it was pop-up based, accidentally clicking a link, or intentional. We tell all of our teachers and staff, if they have this type of pop-up storm to unplug their PCs and call us.

However, we are lucky that we have a staff of IT professionals that are IT professionals. Many schools are only able to afford to pay a teacher or even a para-professional (teaching assistant) to run their IT shop, often in addition to whatever their other duties are. One school district who’s IT manager I have visited with talked of sitting on the floor crying at 10pm because she didn’t have enough help or money to keep things up and running. In school districts it is not unusual for renewals of various things to pass unnoticed, because it just gets lost in the shuffle and there is no one who’s specific task it is to keep track of that.

Oh, and by the way, a high percentage of the teachers here don’t KNOW that turning off the monitor and turning off the computer are entirely different things. When we tell a teacher to turn off their computer we need to specifically tell them that is the switch on the front of the box (which they variously refer to as the computer, the CPU, the hard drive, the modem, the network,….), not the button on the “TV” screen. It is also not unusual for subs in a school district to be told to “not turn off” the PC because they “won’t be able to get back in”. We had a sub that left the computer on night and day for a month because of being told this, despite the fact that the school has a log-in specifically for subs……

Oh, and by the way, old PCs running Windows 98 are not that uncommon in schools. Often schools can only afford what is given to them, often 6 year old or older PCs that are donated by local businesses that are getting rid of them.

In the end NOTHING about this case surprises me, it was just a matter of time before it happened, it will change nothing, and it will happen again.

If you want it to NOT happen again, call your state legislators, tell them to raise your taxes and to use the money to build a statewide educational network which is independent of the internet, and put in massive quantities of enterprise filtering software and hardware between it and the internet (the kind of equipment that SCHOOLS can’t afford).

I disagree, as Ed writes, that it is a prosecutor’s job not to express any doubt about evidence. Indeed, one of the most disgusting aspects about the American criminal justice system is that prosecutors always insist they are 100% sure someone is guilty, even when they know their evidence is deeply flawed.

Lawyers who do this should be disbarred, and policemen who do this should be jailed.

The entry from Mark Lounsbury, the detective on the case, is sad.

He is taking criticism of the investigation far too personally and not allowing other facts and suggestions from experts, including the 24 computer scientists that signed an open letter in March, to enter his analysis.

I am one of the security software executives that finds this case to be not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. You don’t have to believe Julie Amero to be a saint to hold this view - you just need to know something about software.

I have personally examined an archived copy of the exact page assessed on this PC, including the javascripts and hidden URLs in place at the time.

If you look only at the visible content, you will not find anything objectionable about the page - i.e. the page itself is not a porn site, but is actually, as the name suggests, a site about hairstyles. A bad site at that, but still the kind of site a teenager could go to without noticing anything strange.

However, many of the hyperlinks on the page feature hidden URLs that lead to porn sites based in Eastern Europe. These sites contain many of the typical javascript popup generators that these cheaper sites use.

What I find appalling about this case, (well, this whole mess is appalling, but whatever) is the fact that others have previously stated that the prosecution didn’t bother to scan for spyware/malware. In my experience as an IT professional, on any system that contains pornographic content is also harboring spyware at least 99% of the time. While repairing a system, whenever I encounter porn on a PC, I immediately isolate it from the network and run a thorough virus/spyware check, even if the user hasn’t requested it. My point is that porn has become inseparably linked with spyware, where there is one there is the other. Bob Hartz the Information Services Director claims that this incident was a fluke, (http://www.norwichbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070124/NEWS01/701240317) that the filtering software in place is normally effective at preventing access to inappropriate web sites. But the fact of the matter is, once the spyware and its accompanying Trojan(s) has entered the system, no amount of filtering is going to prevent it from doing what it was designed to do. The only foolproof method is to completely disconnect the system from the network and even then the browser cache is still available.
I must also point out that Julie Amero was a substitute teacher. It is extremely likely that the system was infected prior to her even entering the classroom. Usually spyware and its ilk tend not to show themselves immediately. It generally tends to wait until it has established a solid foothold in the system before announcing its presence. (i.e. copied itself into the system folder and added startup items to the registry.) Being told not to turn the system off also adds frustration to the mix. As noted by Ned, it is astounding how many people don’t know that hitting the power button on the monitor has no affect on the actual status of the PC. Anyway, Julie Amero had absolutely no control over the situation. The average user doesn’t know what to do about spyware and popups; that’s what keeps us IT guys busy. Even had she possessed the knowledge to prevent the situation, she did not have appropriate permission to do anything, even something as simple or obvious as turning off the machine. That’s my two bits for now. I would love to examine the court transcript.

I agree with most every body that has commented on this site except the police officer and a couple of others. My daughter had a computer that had the same thing on it and she could not get rid of those same pop ups. She ended up junking it. By the way, it was also on Windows 98!

I was wondering what was currently happening in her case. She has a Wikipedia entry now. It said that she was granted a new a new trial (Yay!), so I Googled “Julie Amero new trial” (with my secure operating system and web browser of course) and came up with Andy’s newer post. I’m glad to see that he, and others, haven’t forgotten about this.

Kid.Kids kids.They have to many dam rights. They have NO DAM Business being on the Internet in the first place. It was created for ADULTS !! If the kids want to go on the internet then there should be a dedicated site for them,and ALL OTHER SITES BLOCKED OUT. They and the stupid school shouldn’t be allowed on the reg Internet. No if ands or buts about it. Schools in general are a big joke,and a waste of time an money,as 90% of what they teach is not really needed in real life. Even when taught a real thing, one can’t use it out there to make a living as it’s usually out dated. Just as the teachers are. Highly overpaid. If they were any darn good in there field of expertise are they teaching???? The plain fact is there somewheres at the bottom of the beral. Most couldn’t cut it in the real world that’s why they became teachers in the first place.

To: Leonard Roppolo - I was a technology & business teacher, as well as a math teacher. Before teaching I was a financial analyst who was about to launch a successful career at Merrill Lynch when I decided that I wanted to see that more females entered into the math and science fields. So instead of taking on the opportunity to have one of the high paying jobs in my town, I took one of the lowest paying teaching positions at a center with troubled girls.

After than I moved into a position in business education & technology for the public schools. I took on an additional position teaching teachers how to integrate technology in the classroom. I wanted to help schools and students, to make curriculum more relevant, and to improve learning. When you insult teachers in general, you insult the good with the bad. I did find a lot of older tenured teachers who were unfamiliar with technology whether it was the internet, email, or even posting lesson plans on the web for students, parents, & principals to access.

With my experience teaching technology & working with computers (I have a BBA in Finance with IT minor and I went back to work on my Masters in Teaching when I changed careers), if an inexperienced person came across a popup and hit the x’s, it would snowball and make more. Additionally, there are also students who purposely try to pull that stuff up. When our district purchased a new curriculum, the tech teachers had to site down and go through all the web links because porn companies buy up old sites and we had to regularly check links. And dealing with old systems, servers, computers, and outdated spyware will also create problems for even the most experienced teachers.

This is a very sad case indeed. While there are teachers who intentionally do show & say inappropriate things, this did not appear to be her intent. And for her to have miscarried on top of this is tragic. I had a stillborn when I worked for a non-profit teaching math - my baby died in the third trimester. My boss required me to walk a 7k from Daytona to Ponce Inlet for a fundraiser - if I refused she threatened to terminate me which would have meant I would have lost my health insurance. So I walked the thing, started having preterm labor, then my boss told me pregnancy was not a “handicap” and I lost the baby. My boss called me in the hospital a few hours after I delivered a baby which died and then told me I had 3 days bereavement and had to report back to work. So I left that position for another school.

Teachers are highly disrespected and underpaid. This is part of the reason that some people choose to work in other industries when they would like to teach, because of the pay difference. If I taught finance at a unversity, I could earn $100,000. If I become a head hunter or a saleswoman, I could earn over $100,000 to $300,000 and work from home with a company car expense, etc. So if you want to see better teachers coming in, they need better pay. Many things even colleges teach become outdated in technology pretty fast. However, writing, math, speaking, history, and science does not become obsolete. Everyone can use their math skills (if learned in school) to manage their budget, etc.

As for some internet history. It was originally created for NASA and research facilities - EDUCATED adults - not the porn industry. I was first on the internet at about 8 years old when it was all text and black and white, I used it to start an environmentally aware club nationwide while still in elementary school. Then the internet as we know it emerged and it is for both adults and also children.

If you really wanted to see education improve, the internet can be an amazing resource despite the dangers of pop ups and porn sites who bought out previously decent sites. In our school, we had students writing little stories, putting them online with digital art, and then the local elementary school students could go and read them. We also had a science teacher who was going to hatch somes egg in real time with a intenet camera watching so his students could sign on and see the hatching.

Leonard, you are full of criticism, but what do you have to offer as a solution? A lot of teachers make a lot of sacrifices willingly to teach a bunch of ungrateful students with unappreciative parents living in a community that disrespects the profession. It takes strong people with a lot of focus and principles to stick with teaching in such an unpleasent environment. Teaching degrees cost the same as business degrees but they make a lot less and are limited by their degree.


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