Folly in Connecticut

Cheers went up here in the SC office when today’s news broke that Julie Amero, the Connecticut substitute teacher accused of exposing her seventh grade students to pornography on a classroom computer, was exonerated of charges that could have sent her to jail for 40 years.

Anyone with experience web surfing can tell you that pop-ups, such as the ones that infected that Norwich classroom, are as much a part of today’s internet experience as commercials on cable TV.

It’s been hard not to sympathize with Ms. Amero, who it seems has been a victim twice — first, of unwanted smut on her classroom computer, and second, of an overzealous prosecution probably responding to the protests of one or two parents.

This tale has justifiably ignited much discussion in the computer security field. Unlike the witchhunt mentality that exacerbated the incident, IT pros knew from the beginning the cause for the event which led to Amero’s prosecution: malicious spyware.

Rather than scapegoating an innocent computer user attempting to teach children, some of the passion might have been better utilized in finding out how to prevent spyware from reaching into a classroom computer. Does the Norwich school system have an IT security pro on staff? Were there firewalls, were there up-to-date anti-malware solutions loaded on the school system’s network?

This experience is loaded with implications for those in the computer security field. The danger is out there. The task of shielding kids and other computer users from the infestation of unwanted, unsolicited messages is the task of competent computer security professionals. And it is becoming more and more vital for them to do some educating of their own; namely persuading their higher ups, and the general population, of the importance of a safe computer network.

Persecuting Amero was folly from the beginning, if not the basis for her to bring her own civil case.

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