Feeds

Teachers cleared in school porn probe

PC post mortem market profits from growth in spyware

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Forensic computing techniques proved decisive in proving staff at a Buckinghamshire primary school had not been surfing for porn at work. The head of the school called in Disklabs, a computer forensics and data firm, last year, when he discovered web folders with pornographic content on a PC used by pupils. The history of these folders suggested a creation date during lesson time and a modified date on a teacher-training day.

Opinion was divided among County ICT staff and the head teachers' union as to whether the images and bookmarks had been made intentionally or if this was due to a malicious program. Faced with the potential risk to pupils, the need to treat staff fairly and responsibilities to the school and its governors, Staffordshire-based Disklabs was asked to conduct an independent forensic analysis of the suspect PC.

The analysis showed definitively that the presence of suspect content was caused by a program from the well-known spy and adware family, Istbar Adware. The program downloaded content to infected PCs without users' knowledge or agreement. Disklabs' analysis report cleared the school, staff and pupils of any doubt, and gave vital independent corroboration of the school's position without exposing it to the negative publicity a police inquiry might generate.

CSI for PCs

Like a conventional crime scene, PCs contain evidence and an audit trail of user activity. After isolating the system to preserve evidence, Disklabs used specialised forensic tools to search hidden folders and unallocated disk space, verifying exactly how the files arrived and whether this was down to human intent or a malicious program. Findings are delivered in a complete procedural report.

Disklabs has seen demand for its forensics services grow by over 70 per cent in the last year, driven by the boom in spyware. Many organisations, especially in the public sector, are turning to computer forensics to establish if misuse or an infection is to blame for inappropriate material found on computers. Some types of Spyware and particular viruses are capable of changing users' internet favourites and bookmarks, downloading images to hard disks and stealing information on user activities from infected PCs.

Recent research by technology US ISP Earthlink and anti-spyware firm Webroot revealed that Windows PCS harbour 25 separate, malicious programs on average. The audit surveyed over 4.6 million PCs last year, finding more than 116.5m instances of spyware, Trojans and other malicious programs. Incidents of Trojans – the worst category of infection – in PCs submitted to Webroot’s SpyAudit rose from 130,322 in Q1 2004 to 769,330 in Q4 2004.

Disklabs director Simon Steggles said: "With so many malicious programs on the web, organisations are realising that PCs with inappropriate images or content may not have been misused by individuals, but unwittingly infected. Forensics can establish beyond doubt whether this is the case, and also presents evidence which can be used to support the chosen course of action." ®

Related stories

Child porn case highlights browser hijack risks
The Giant Wooden Horse Did It!
Cybersleuths track Dame Porter s millions
Forensic computing uncloaks industrial espionage
Traces of Guilt: computer crime from the front line

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.