Security pros work to undo teacher's conviction

'This machine should not have been on the Internet'

What happened after that has become the main point of contention.

A detective on the case using off-the-shelf recovery software argued that Amero clicked on pornographic Web links and caused the computer to display pornographic pop-up advertisements. However, the defense's forensic expert, Herbert Horner, stated that a more complete analysis showed that a harmless hairstyling Web site had actually redirected the PC's browser to pornographic sites, setting off the deluge of offensive ads.

Horner, the principal at Contemporary Computer Consultants, had walked into the courtroom to discuss his analysis but was prevented from doing so in detail because the prosecution argued that they had not had full disclosure of his testimony.

In an interview with SecurityFocus, Horner voiced obvious frustration at his inability to relate all his findings to the jury.

"It is kind of like you have a fire truck and a full tank of water and you can save everybody, but someone said you can't do that because the container you put the water in is against the rules," Horner said.

Prosecutors have also focused on the fact that Amero did not turn off the computer, though she did go for help during a class break, Horner said.

Both the prosecutor in the case, state attorney David J. Smith, and Amero's attorney, John F. Cocheo, declined to comment for this story, prior to the sentencing hearing on March 2. The public filings in the case could not obtained in time for this article.

The team of security professionals analyzing the forensic evidence are not yet ready to release an opinion, but one thing is clear, Eckelberry said: The classroom's machine was infested with spyware and the school did not have adequate protections in place.

It's an issue that has refocused some of the debate on administrators at Kelly Middle School. School officials recently told parents that the incident could never happen today, because the district has installed security software and a filtering system.

"This was a Windows 98 SE machine with IE 5 and an expired antivirus subscription," Eckelberry said. "It hadn't been updated since August, and there was no anti-spyware, no pop-up protection, no firewall and no content filters. Regardless of whatever happened, this machine was a machine that should not have been on the Internet."

This article originally appeared in Security Focus.

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