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Substitute Teacher Faces Jail Time Over Spyware

Substitute Teacher Faces Jail Time Over Spyware from the Washington Post

A 40-year-old former substitute teacher from Connecticut is facing prison time following her conviction for endangering students by exposing them to pornographic material displayed on a classroom computer.

Local prosecutors charged that the teacher was caught red-handed surfing for porn in the presence of seventh graders. The defense claimed the graphic images were pop-up ads generated by spyware already present on the computer prior to the teacher’s arrival. The jury sided with the prosecution and convicted her of four counts of endangering a child, a crime that brings a punishment of up to 10 years per count. She is due to be sentenced on March 2.

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At my school district, we have very tight server security. I can’t even view most personal blogs, message boards, or myspace, let alone porn sites. This event happened three years ago, and even then most schools had severe restrictions on what can be accessed.

This school had none of that. It was still running machines with Windows 98 in 2004, six years after 98 was introduced and three years after Windows XP was introduced. The school was still using Internet Explorer 5, six years after it was introduced and three years after IE 6 was introduced with popup blockers.

Chances are, the popups were due to spyware. The school’s license for firewall software had expired, and it had no spyware detection or protection whatsoever. A scan of the computer’s hard drive encountered two adware programs and at least one Trojan horse program that had been installed weeks prior to the alleged incident. The judge refused to allow the prosecution to show the jury these scans nor technical evidence of how this popup explosion can account for websites appearing to have been visited voluntarily.

This must be the worst kind of nightmare for Julie Amaro. She was a substitute teacher and self-proclaimed luddite.

Now she faces up to 40 years in prison.

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

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