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Missed Software Upgrade Blamed for Conn. Porn Case

Many Security Fix readers have been quick to express their outrage in response to my post from this morning about a substitute teacher in Connecticut who could be sentenced for up to 40 years in prison after she was convicted of exposing students to online pornography. Now, the school district's information technology supervisor says the whole mess might never have happened had he renewed the school's license for its content filtering software.

The acknowledgment came at a school board meeting on Tuesday evening, when district IT director Robert Hartz reportedly acknowledged that the incident was partly the result of a "miscommunication on a software invoice." Eileen McNamara of Connecticut's TheDay.com writes that Hartz didn't exactly take all of the blame, noting that "the company that supplies the school's content-filter software failed to send him the necessary paperwork to activate an updated version of the filter prior to the 2004 school year."

Hartz didn't say that the convicted teacher, Julie Amero, was innocent of the charges against her. But TheDay.com notes that he "blamed himself for the computer pornography incident, saying he may have overlooked an invoice for the update. 'That's why we didn't get this thing updated in time for the 2004 school year and that's why this incident happened,' Hartz told the board."

I've tried to reach Hartz twice by phone since Wednesday but have not yet heard back from him. I will update this post if I do.

By Brian Krebs  |  January 25, 2007; 5:37 PM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker , Safety Tips  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Substitute Teacher Faces Jail Time Over Spyware
Next: Another Unpatched Microsoft Word Flaw

Comments

This is just another WitchHunt.
The teacher in question is being sacrificially
offered up by community leaders who are trying
to avoid exposure of some of their own corruptions.

The event is being driven by a core group which
centers on Ellen Lind in collusion with
key investors intent upon distracting attention
from financial rape of the community.

Posted by: WitchHuntExposed | January 25, 2007 7:58 PM | Report abuse

And going to this Washington Post page, generates Pop-Up ads too.

Posted by: William Frank | January 26, 2007 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Why isn't this in the Dead Tree edition? Sounds like a great story for the Outlook section on Sunday, or maybe Pegoraro could do a story on this.

@William Frank: Surf with Firefox, it has a pop-up blocker.

Posted by: wiredog | January 26, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I wonder whether the judge's attitude would change if the same thing happened to him. Either on his computer or his snail-mail box.

Posted by: Art | January 26, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

If crap like "my websearch" was allowed on the computer, Lord knows what on that school computer. As a tech, there is stuff out there innocently named, but when that stuff is activated, they pull in XXX sites, gambling sites, etc.

No knowing what was on that computer, it is highly possible that the School Board, the prosecuting attorney, and anyone else involved might owe this teacher a major apology, in public!

Posted by: Mic From KS | January 26, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Will teachers stop using computers in the classroom if they are relying on incompetent IT directors to install and maintain them? Most would not risk jail time...

Posted by: Michael from Boca Raton | January 26, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Wow, 40 years seems kind of stiff (pardon the pun) for a relatively non-damaging accident! Rapists rarely get more than 5-7 years.

I find it extremely difficult to believe that a teacher would risk her career and reputation by showing anything remotely pornographic to students - therefore I believe it was an accident. Furthermore, wouldn't an outdated filter system continue to block pornography? I should think so.

Posted by: Victor Lazlo | January 26, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Victor -- My completely unscientific guess is that probably hundreds or even thoughts of new porn sites are created on the internet each week. Just like expired anti-virus software is quickly unable to catch the latest threats, out-of-date filtering software is not going to have the latest database of web sites to block.

Posted by: Bk | January 26, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify, she hasn't actually been sentenced yet. She was convicted of four counts which each have a max penalty of 10 years, so in theory the max she could get is 40 years. Odds of that are slim. Hopefully her appeal will be handled ASAP.

It's too bad the local newspaper believes she's guilty b/c it'd be a great time for some investigative journalism.

Posted by: booyah | January 26, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

By which of course I mean local CT journalism in addition to BK's work.

Posted by: booyah | January 26, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Is it any wonder that people shy away from
the teaching profession? Add this case to the growing list of reason why not to become a teacher.

Posted by: Marvin D. Hernandez | January 26, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I have long tried to defend the USA before its many critics here. I believe they have done many stupid things (haven't we all) but that the people are fundamentally decent for the most part and foreign policy errors can be excused to some extent because they mean well. Besides, they are a young country and have much to learn about the ways of the world.
However, if this decision is not swiftly reversed, I never want to hear another word from the US about the justice systems or corruption in other countries, be it North Korea, Iran, Iraq or wherever. By 'reversed', I mean Ms Amero exonerated and awarded substantial damages; the judge impeached, the prosecutor and defense attorneys disbarred, the school head master dismissed, the complaining parents publicly ridiculed, the kid who made all the fuss given a severe punishment for misbehaving in class, etc.
Don't you have any laws about perverting the course of justice?
Here's a quiz question:
What is the difference between Ms Amero and OJ Simpson?
She is poor, weak, unknown and innocent; he is rich, powerful, famous and guilty.
He gets off; she gets convicted and faces 40 years in jail.

Posted by: David Wright, UK | January 26, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

In the court of public opinion, its clear that the judge, prosecutors, and the school administration should be the ones found guilty of malfeasance for their irresponsible and self serving response to an accident over which a probably well qualified teacher's credentials, and reputation, have been irreparably impugned. The UK writer's observations are "spot on" regarding the sorry state of the US "justice" system. My heartfelt regrets go out to Ms Amero.

Posted by: H Pinter, NC | January 26, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: wiredog | Surf with Firefox, it has a pop-up blocker.

Duh, I do, but the poor lady in Connecticut apparently doesn't. Still doesn't excuse the Washington Post, which troes to pop up an ad, and also will try to put third party cookies on your computer.

Posted by: William Frank | January 26, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Only more sex education. The entire board of education should be included.

Posted by: jim finch | January 26, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Her teaching vocation is dead no matter what. I have taught, elementary grade 6, and less can be explored now, May God help you if a kid sees a bare boob or hears something. No field trips to any place that would show images to offend. A High school art teacher allowed a student to copy a part of a ceiling from St Peters, and was charged will allowing a child to view porn. I wonder if that school library has National Geographic. I could really go off on this, maybe more examples of this total crap should be made public for all to see how far we have slipped backwards. Unless one is a member of congress from Florida.

Posted by: jameshartle | January 26, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

This is fight between personality, Nationality, Humanity and Intelligence. Lets see where how much to pay.

Posted by: Debiprasad Ghosh | January 26, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I am after reading the report of the teacher facing a forty jail sentence have come to the conclusion that indeed the lunatics are finally in control of the asylem

Posted by: Roger Zanker | January 27, 2007 7:36 AM | Report abuse

When I first read this i thought it was a spoof. Who in the world pressed charges? Who said ok lets go with this? I have some knowledge of computers and have at times had an awful time with pop-ups. This women is being tortured by some very stupid people. How can any help?

Posted by: Pete from Mass | January 27, 2007 7:58 AM | Report abuse

The school district can use the PAC filter I have been developing that blocks porn and ubiquitous spies. I use that in conjuction with a blocking hosts file that blocks a lot of stuff that damages machines. It is free. I am about to put it up on a web site. In the meantime, you can get an old version of it here:

http://www.ericphelps.com/security/pac.htm

It is hard to tell whether it is Yahoo or The Washington Post that is doing the spying but the demarcation in my Pseudo HPTTP Daemon logs seems to indicate the following for the Washington Post:

Sat Jan 27 12:45:38: js.revsci.net
Sat Jan 27 12:45:38: wpni.112.2o7.net
Sat Jan 27 12:45:38: ad.doubleclick.net
Sat Jan 27 12:45:38: ad.doubleclick.net
Sat Jan 27 12:45:39: pagead2.googlesyndication.com
Sat Jan 27 12:45:40: ad.doubleclick.net
Sat Jan 27 12:45:40: ad.doubleclick.net
Sat Jan 27 12:45:40: rsi.washingtonpost.com
Sat Jan 27 12:45:40: pix01.revsci.net
Sat Jan 27 12:45:40: stats.surfaid.ihost.com
Sat Jan 27 12:45:40: stats.surfaid.ihost.com
Sat Jan 27 12:46:52: js.revsci.net
Sat Jan 27 12:46:54: ad.doubleclick.net
Sat Jan 27 12:46:54: ad.doubleclick.net
Sat Jan 27 12:46:54: pagead2.googlesyndication.com
Sat Jan 27 12:46:54: rsi.washingtonpost.com
Sat Jan 27 12:46:55: stats.surfaid.ihost.com

In reality, rather than being filtered by my PAC filter rules, all of those are in my blocking hosts file which is a superset of the number #1 blocking hosts file on the Internet:

http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm

Now before you people start dumping on Brian, realize that a lot of these policies are set by his newspaper. So rather than dumping on him, start protecting yourselves.

It is hard to see how this teacher should be totally blamed here when I have written to Senators and Representatives in the US Congress asking for a law requesting that ALL pornographic sites licensed in the United States be mandated into moving into the *.XXX top level domain (TLD). Where is this law? Dumping on a teacher who may have even gone to a porn site without knowing it was one (names are AWFULLY deceptive people) without everybody else being held up for scrutiny gets us no place. I don't know the full details, but demanding that a teacher do the right thing without asking that the others involved also do the right thing is hypocritical. I didn't get 500,000 porn host names in my database by NOBODY going to them people! When I started on my project several years ago, I had no idea how bad the situation was.

So unless the US congress wants to start mandating that porn companies move into the XXX TLD, I am going to literally state that I believe a lot of them are getting money from the online porn sites. How else can I explain NO action on their part? It may be laundered money, but there still isn't any action!

If you are running Microsoft Windows, as one user suggests it is so easy to get an infected computer it is child's play (pun intended). And what is one of the first things these dirt-bags do after they have infected your computer? They start directing your computer at a porn site as a joke. Going to Google takes you to a porn site! In other words, it could have NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH THE TEACHER. I HAVE helped clean more than one computer that had this happen to it!

One more point - stay away from porn sites people! Many can and will infect your computer. On the other hand, I have observed some that did no spying at all, which is better than what the Washington Post is doing right now. I am hoping the Washington Post will wise up and straighten out their act on the spying. Embed your advertising in the pages themselves so that are not obnoxious and let it go after that.

Posted by: Henry Hertz Hobbit | January 27, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Re: Henry Hertz Hobbit post
Hi,
Using the Hosts file as a blocking tool is certainly a forward looking scheme.
The mechanism afforded by Spybot Search and Destroy (www.safer-networking.org) to do this is very easy to effect.
In Advanced Mode, simply click Tools > Hosts File > Add Spybot S&D Hosts List
Then look at all the bad guys that you blocked in:
C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc
Use Notepad to open Hosts.

Posted by: Frank Camp | January 27, 2007 8:27 PM | Report abuse

"justice" ... right.

Time to get the posse out and hang the school board, threaten the soccer moms to shut up, and then go for the DA, judge, jury and all as they are out of sync with the real world out there.
While at go after Microsoft for making such a vulnerable crappy piece of software and the "technology" that it includes.

If this leads schools like these to *never* ever find a single teacher willing to work for them, that'd be good.

I truly hope the rest of the teachers just walk out. Let the corrupt board and the moron parent solve it for themselves.

Posted by: me | January 28, 2007 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Our judicial system is unlikely to improve before people like you and me demand changes. Please, for Julia's sake (and your own), communicate your disgust with several of your elected officials. This is a matter of concern for all Americans.

Posted by: Martin Fister | January 29, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

'Using the Hosts file as a blocking tool is certainly a forward looking scheme.'

Forward? It was done by Silencer nearly ten years ago.
ftp://radsoft.net/pub/bloatbusters/silencer.zip

Posted by: Rick | January 30, 2007 10:46 PM | Report abuse

FYI...

- http://www.securityfocus.com/news/11440
2007-02-02 ~ "Researchers led by the head of a Florida anti-spyware firm aim to recreate what caused a Connecticut school's classroom computer to start displaying pornographic pop-ups in October 2004, an incident that recently led to four felony convictions for the substitute teacher involved... Alex Eckelberry, president of anti-spyware firm Sunbelt Software, hopes to put the case to rest. Armed with an image of the disk from the Windows 98 SE computer, the technology expert put out a call to interested security researchers and assigned his own workers to the case. "We have had huge offerings of support from the security community," Eckelberry said this week. "Other experts in the forensics community--and these are not small players--have come to us and offered to help"..."

.

Posted by: J. Warren | February 2, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

May 2004, Wired news
Browser hijackers ruining lives
http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,63391,00.html

Posted by: Fima Fimovich | February 7, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me to be the most eggregious case of an overzealous prosecuting attorney, completely devoid of common sense and probably hoping to be Governor someday.

Posted by: B. Reynolds | March 1, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

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