Computer Virus Can Put Child Pornography On Your Computer: AP Investigation


Of all the sinister things that Internet viruses do, this might be the worst: They can make you an unsuspecting collector of child pornography.

Heinous pictures and videos can be deposited on computers by viruses — the malicious programs better known for swiping your credit card numbers. In this twist, it’s your reputation that’s stolen.

Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they’ll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.

Whatever the motivation, you get child porn on your computer — and might not realize it until police knock at your door.

An Associated Press investigation found cases in which innocent people have been branded as pedophiles after their co-workers or loved ones stumbled upon child porn placed on a PC through a virus. It can cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence.

Their situations are complicated by the fact that actual pedophiles often blame viruses — a defense rightfully viewed with skepticism by law enforcement.

“It’s an example of the old `dog ate my homework’ excuse,” says Phil Malone, director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “The problem is, sometimes the dog does eat your homework.”

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1 Comment on "Computer Virus Can Put Child Pornography On Your Computer: AP Investigation"

  1. There was a real-life example of someone right here in Norwich, Connecticut whose career was destroyed by malware, which installed porn on a computer she happened to be using; her name is Julie Amero.

    This case was poorly handled from the start, first by a school system which refused to put even barely-functioning malware detection on its computers; by a detective, Mark Lounsbury, who carried his personal vendetta against Ms Amero to his own blog railing against her (which was later taken offline by its host); by a police department which had no one on staff credentialed to conduct computer forensics, but which refused to admit it; by a state’s attorney who, upon realizing the extent of the misapplication of justice in this case, rather than admit the Norwich police and Det. Lounsbury had done the wrong thing, chose instead to continue putting the screws to her; by a state court system that had gone as far as to vacate an initial verdict against her, but could not bring itself to let the matter die, and coerced her into pleading guilty to a lesser charge just to get them off her back.

    This case was the laughing stock of the IT world, making the trade mags (for example: Everyone in the IT world knew what happened here, but the powers-that-be in Norwich CT, the state’s attorney’s office, and the CT courts, had absolutely no clue … and the more they found out how wrong they were, the harder they dug their heels in. A number of accomplished computer scientists publicly requested that her case be reviewed (–an-open-letter-to-kevin-kane.aspx) … but they may as well have talked to a wall, for all the good it did. Experts were never consulted in this case, and when they spoke, they were ignored.

    To this day — as far as I know — not one person in authority has apologized to Ms Amero for having destroyed her career, for no reason other than they could not admit they had leaped to an unfounded conclusion.

    At any rate, for those of us who actually work in the IT business, none of this is news. It’s been happening for years, in fact. And perhaps it might be wise to take the advice of columnist Robert X. Cringeley (see link above): “And whatever you do, if you’re ever passing through Norwich, Ct., try not to get arrested.”

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