When substitute teacher Julie Amero was convicted last month on four counts of risk of injury to a minor, many observers felt that the jury didn't have the technical knowledge to make an informed decision about the case. Amero faces 40 years in prison.
"A bad spyware infestation can splatter a machine full of porn pop-ups and it’s a bit unnerving to think that a teacher could get hard prison time for something that was likely to have been completely innocent," says Alexander Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, writing on the anti-spyware vendor's blog.
With sentencing set for 2 March, Eckelberry is hoping to get to the bottom of the case before then. Armed with an image of the disk from the Windows 98 SE computer, he has asked security researchers to join his own staff in determining exactly what happened to cause the classroom computer to start displaying a "loop" of pornographic images.
According to Eckelberry, response from the security industry as well as the forensics community, has been overwhelming.
The incident, where seventh-grade learners had sight of pornographic images, took place in October 2004. It was later determined that the computer was inadequately protected, having been updated with security software in August 2004.
Meanwhile, the school district's Internet filtering software was also out of date, because Symantec, creator of the school's WebNOT computer filter, failed to send a licensing certificate to activate the software's updates feature.
This case could be similar to one in 2002, where a network adminstrator was convicted on a felony charge and served 16 months of his sentence before it was overturned when it was shown he was the victim of malware.