Teacher granted new trial in pop-up porn case, Sophos comments

June 06, 2007 Sophos Press Release

SophosLabs
Experts at SophosLabs warn that unprotected PCs are often hit by offensive pop-up adverts.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of malware and spam analysis centers, have welcomed the news that a former substitute teacher has been granted a new trial after her conviction earlier this year in connection with pornographic pop-up adverts appearing on her classroom PC.

Julie Amero was convicted on 5 January 2007 in Norwich, Connecticut, after it was found that her PC had exposed students at Kelly Middle School to internet pornography.

Amero's conviction has generated controversy because security experts believe that malware could have hijacked her PC to force it to visit adult websites. The PC is said to have not been running a firewall or anti-malware software.

The 40-year-old substitute teacher had faced a maximum possible sentence of 40 years in prison on four counts of risk of injury to a minor. However, today in court state prosecutor David Smith confirmed that further forensic examination of the computer had revealed that "some erroneous information" was presented during the original trial.

"We see lots of malware that is designed to drive traffic to adult websites without the user granting permission. Additionally, hackers break into badly defended PCs and plant unsavoury pop-up adverts onto innocent users' systems in order to generate revenue," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Granting Julie Amero's defense team a new trial is a victory for common sense, as there are clearly elements of this case that raise serious doubts about whether the court was properly informed of the facts at the original hearing."

Sophos experts warn that it is easy for unprotected computers to be infected by offensive pop-up adverts.

"It is all too easy for someone whose PC is not properly defended by security software to find themselves in the middle of a pop-up tornado," continued Cluley. "Many people wouldn't have a clue as to how it happened, or what steps to take to clear the blight off their PC. What's worst is that this can happen through no fault of their own, they don't need to have visited an offensive website in the first place to have the adverts pop-up. Every organization needs to defend its workers from this nuisance with an appropriate and up-to-date IT security solution."

No date has yet been scheduled for Amero's new trial.

Sophos recommends organizations automatically update their corporate virus protection, and defend their users with a consolidated solution to defend against the threats of viruses, spyware, hackers and spam.