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Man Fired When Laptop Malware Downloaded Porn 635

Posted by samzenpus
from the your-computer-wants-porn dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes "The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents fired worker Michael Fiola and initiated procedures to prosecute him for child pornography when they determined that internet temporary files on his laptop computer contained child porn. According to Fiola, 'My boss called me into his office at 9 a.m. The director of the Department of Industrial Accidents, my immediate supervisor, and the personnel director were there. They handed me a letter and said, "You are being fired for a violation of the computer usage policy. You have pornography on your computer. You're fired. Clean out your desk. Let's go."' Fiola said, 'They wouldn't talk to me. They said, "We've been advised by our attorney not to talk to you."' However, prosecutors dropped the case when a state investigation of his computer determined there was insufficient evidence to prove he had downloaded the files. Computer forensic analyst Tami Loehrs, who spent a month dissecting the computer for the defense, explained in a 30-page report that the laptop was running corrupted virus-protection software, and Fiola was hit by spammers and crackers bombarding its memory with images of incest and pre-teen porn not visible to the naked eye. The virus protection and software update functions on the laptop had been disabled, and apparently the laptop was 'crippled' by malware. According to Loehrs, 'When they gave him this laptop, it had belonged to another user, and they changed the user name for him, but forgot to change the SMS user name, so SMS was trying to connect to a user that no longer existed ... It was set up to do all of its security updates via the server, and none of that was happening because he was out in the field.' A malware script on the machine surfed foreign sites at a rate of up to 40 per minute whenever the machine was within range of a wireless site."
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Man Fired When Laptop Malware Downloaded Porn

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  • by Mesa MIke (1193721) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:04PM (#23847025) Homepage
    It just seems immensly more likely that he got infected by malware from surfing porn sites, than getting infected by porn from having malware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Paul Pierce (739303)

      It just seems immensly more likely that he got infected by malware from surfing porn sites, than getting infected by porn from having malware.
      But Child porn? Would he be that dumb? I've seen many really infected machines, and let me tell you so nasty stuff pops up, and I really hope if they were surfing porn that they were able to find better stuff than that.

      Oh, and by the way, the real Truth is here. (check my name)
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @12:54AM (#23850705) Journal
        Actually he didn't need to even look at ANY porn. I have worked more years in PC repair than I care to admit and I can tell you from experience I have seen an old lady's PC infected from a travel site, one that got rootkitted when his kid went to get gameshark codes and a couple hit by ActiveX drivebys from "webchat" sites the teenage son went to. These are just the ones I know about,because I knew these folks and I got curious and so went to the sites listed in the IE history for the times that the customer said the PC started "acting weird". I used to keep an old WinXP box with a 4Gb HDD that was imaged just for checking out malware or testing bug removal tools and was surprised how quick these "legit" sites hit that box.


        And let us not forget even trusted websites can get compromised [trendmicro.com],so for all we know this guy was surfing a legitimate website and got hit by a driveby or one of the many exploits that had been released since his machine no longer was updating. I personally hope he gets enough out of them in a lawsuit that he never has to work again. It is obvious to me they never bothered to look at the laptop except to look for porn,and the fact that it was THEIR OWN SCREWUP that caused this in the first place should make it a slam dunk for any decent lawyer. But as always that is my 02c from many years of fixing Windows boxes,YMMV

    • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:11PM (#23847107) Homepage
      Sounds like it may have been the previous user that got the machine infected.
      • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:40PM (#23847511)
        "Sounds like it may have been the previous user that got the machine infected."

        Sounds like a good reason to either demand a clean install when being issued a machine (and check it yourself anyway) or (if dealing with clueless types) wipe it, hand it back, and play the luser:

        "Uhh, I can't log on..."
        • by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:03PM (#23847773) Homepage Journal
          From a purely technical point of view, a clean install is good advice in this situation (and many others!) But it's not something an ordinary user can do. This guy certainly doesn't have the expertise, not if he was using such a thoroughly compromised system. So he has to turn it over to the IT department, which then charges his department $100 or more for the service. That's approaching the total value of the laptop if its been around for any length of time.
        • by Missing_dc (1074809) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:43PM (#23848251)
          As a sys-admin, I was given a laptop to use that was my predecessor's. While doing a search of the laptop, I found A LOT of porn in the internet cache. My predecessor had used the firewall/lan bypass device we reserve for site visitors to surf for porn on company time. I did not report him, I simply contacted him and said "I seem to have found some adult material on your laptop, all time and user stamped for you. I think I will re-image this machine, do you have any objections?" He seemed pretty thankful that I was doing so and has been very helpful towards me ever since (8+ months).

          I would like to think that as a sysadmin, I have the duty to protect both the company and the users under my watch. I was not harming the company by giving this guy an out(especially since he had just got a big promotion and an expensive move to corporate HQ).

          Do you think I did wrong in not reporting the guy? (It was obviously deliberate browsing, but no kiddie stuffs)
          • by voss (52565) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @10:14PM (#23849257)
            As long hes a decent guy...

            By bringing it to his attention
            1) You save the company a competent employee
            2) Discourage him from doing it again
            3) You demonstrate your personal loyalty to an up and coming executive.

            The question you have to answer, is did the employees actions harm the company
            in a non-trivial manner? I assume the answer is no. There are many things users
            do that waste time, most of which are trivial and do not actively cost the company money.
            If the cost of stopping these trivial things exceeds the benefits then you tolerate it and move on.

            I would be more concerned about the use of a "firewall/lan bypass device" than the content itself.

          • by elucido (870205) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @02:30AM (#23851313)

            Look, we are here on slashdot discussing this as if we don't have the technical skill to use CP as a weapon to get people fired. It's really simple write a bot, and then upload your enemy list in encrypted form to that bot server in whatever location and have that bot send a bunch of child porn to all the people you dislike.

            9 times out of 10, most men will accept any photograph of what they think is a hot chick, not knowing what it is before they open it, it could be child porn, it could be a virus, they don't know. The problem is once the child porn is on their computer then they get reported and their computer gets checked for child porn.

            They then undelete everything and find that one photo was on the computer for a split second.

            This alone is enough to get a person fired. Personally, in my opinion, unless a person has LOTS of child porn, I don't think it's right to report them over one image found somewhere on their drive.

            If we go by those standards then only the most paranoid of internet users will be able to avoid being infected with child porn. The situation is messed up but I wont label pedophile so easily.

            In my opinion you did the right thing. It's becoming way too easy to label someone a pedophile, at this point any hacker can get just about all of their enemies labeled a pedophile by simply hacking into their enemies computers, uploading the child porn, storing it in some secret hidden directory they can't see, and then alerting the proper authorities.

            It's fucked up, but just like there were people writing viruses which would destroy computers, there will be people who spend all their time trying to destroy peoples lives using child porn as a weapon to get people mislabeled into a pedophile.

            If all it takes to get labeled a pedophile is to be caught with child porn on your computer, how hard will it be to make you look like a pedophile?

            You probably wont have to look for child porn or search for it or anything, I doubt the authorities check search records in these cases to see if the person was searching for child porn, they probably just see the pictures on the computer and scream pedophile.

          • by Rocknrico (804444) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:26AM (#23856157)
            You can't imagine the world of crap awaiting that guy had you reported him. It would have been a problem that would probably haunt him for the rest of his life. My spouse recently almost lost her job after a 40 year old arrest for dope surfaced in the FCIC database after a background check. Nevermind that she has a clean record since 1968, and has tirelessly worked with youth groups, sunday school, Boy/Girl scouts and extremely active both at church and the community. In fact, the official arrest /court records don't even exist after a 1997 fire at the courthouse destroyed everything. As a computer professional, I'm shocked that Georgia went back so far in time to key that data into the database. You definitely did the right thing. Definitely.
    • Julie Amero ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by PoliTech (998983) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:13PM (#23847135) Homepage Journal
      Julie Amero and the Porn Pop-Ups [wikipedia.org] all over again?
    • by One Childish N00b (780549) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:23PM (#23847271) Homepage
      Hey, this trick worked on my mother when she busted me with (regular) porn on the family computer back in the day. I just showed her some flashy sensationalist article from the newspaper about 'malware' and 'popups' and told her the internet must have done it. Obviously it was that evil internet that had filled her computer with pornography, and not her pure-minded, cherub-like son. Curse that evil internet.

      I wonder if she ever noticed that 'the internet' preferred brunettes?
    • The Truth (TM) (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @10:14PM (#23849251) Homepage Journal
      Firing people based on things that happened on an infected PC is the modern equivalent of shouting burn the witch! [youtube.com]

      The truth is that this can happen. The truth is that so many corporate desktop and laptop systems are p0wn3d by th3m that it isn't even funny.

      The truth is that event logging on these networks and systems are insufficiently detailed as to demonstrate conclusively which actually happened. Any logging that does take place on a system probably can't show you wether the user was responsible, or if an automated program pretending to be the user was responsible. Any corporation that gives a users a typical Windows system and then holds that user responsible when something untoward happens on that system ought to be opening themselves up to a lawsuit.

      The truth is that even the the lawyers who advised not to talk about the reasons for dismissal don't recognize this. They prohibit discussion of the details regarding the dismissal of the employee for reasons entirely unrelated to the issue of being entirely unable to conclusively substantiate any accusations which would be made. (It's standard dismissal policy at all of the Fortune 500 to not give any reason). In general, employees, managers, lawyers and judges are completely unprepared to assess the details which would expose the fact that nobody can actually prove that this unfortunate person was probably the victim of some botmaster's prank. People should be surprised that this doesn't happen more often.

      That said, there are things one can look at to determine what was *likely* to have happened on that box, and one can assess to some degree what things were relatively more likely than others. If the box was running malware, though, the most likely outcome is that one cannot demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the user was guilty. However, one can, in some cases, demonstrate innocence, by showing, for example, that a given download occurred when the user was away from the keyboard.

      It's important to note that the converse is not true. The malware can easily mimic user behavior by performing user style tasks only when the user is logged in. Malware may, for example, have incentive to operate only when a real user is logged in, because certain operations in certain environments are unlikely to succeed if the user is not logged in (being stopped, and identified as likely malware behavior by a 3rd party heuristic detection system, for example.) Malware often does change its behavior based on instructions from the outside, based on the day or the time, based on all sorts of things, and may not behave the same in an isolated test lab as it does "in the wild" so it can be difficult or impossible to demonstrate the full capability of a given strain, even if you have a copy of it.
    • The phrase "innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" comes to mind. Forensic analysis of the machine apparently showed it to be severely compromised by malware. Allow me to quote from one of TFAs:

      "What I found is, he would log in to the state's Web site, he'd be on for five or 10 minutes and during the exact same time that he's filling out a form, an image shows up, out of nowhere. No typed [Uniform Resource Locator], no search, no Web site activity, just bam, a cached image shows up on his computer," Loehrs said. The offending images were located in the laptop's browser cache directory.

      "He'd have 40 Web sites hitting his computer in a minute -- who's the IT guy who looked at this and said, "Wow, this guy is pretty active on the Internet?'" Loehrs said. "It's physically impossible!"

      Loehrs found a script file that was set to go out and run its own searches on foreign Web sites, she said. "And once you get into some of these foreign sites, you'll get all kinds of stuff you don't want to see.

      "Actually, the child pornography was just a very small portion of it. The majority was just bizarre porn. He was being hit with everything," she added.
      Are you still so certain of your position?
  • by Raineer (1002750) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:05PM (#23847039)
    Good to know they researched heavily before firing him. At my company when re-deploying hardware like a laptop it is standard to wipe it completely and load a ghosted image. Who WOULDN'T do at least as much?
    • by dal20402 (895630) * <dal20402@macPASCAL.com minus language> on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:10PM (#23847105) Journal

      Who WOULDN'T do at least as much?

      Government employees in Massachusetts, the state that is so corrupt and dysfunctional it gives government all over the rest of the U.S. a black eye.

      Seriously. I just escaped (to D.C., which, despite its warts is a million times better) from three years of living in that hellhole. I don't think I encountered a single effective or competently run state agency the whole time.

      I expect the employee who would have been responsible for wiping this laptop is probably a relative of some high official, and probably doesn't know how to do anything except reinstall Windows from a factory CD.

    • by Secrity (742221) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:14PM (#23847163)
      They did fire him -- they fired him and never asked any questions. The investigation was by the prosecutor, not his employer. I wonder if he will be hired back with back pay.
      • by LackThereof (916566) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @09:14PM (#23848615)

        I wonder if he will be hired back with back pay.
        A different article I read about this said that he had no interest in ever working for or having any dealings with this company ever again.

        He will, however, be suing them.
    • by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:17PM (#23847183) Journal
      I am a lawyer, but this is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, the attorney in this story might be a good choice . . . (but I cannot endorse him).

      This, in a nutshell, is why lawyer's represent guilty scum.

      Sometimes, it turns out, they are neither . . .

      Personally, I'm skeptical about the idea of malware that secretly downloads and hides kiddie porn--why would the malware developer do that? I really can't fault the emploeyr for not considering such an idea and investigating it.

      The defense attorney, though, is to advocate for his client, even if the client claims seem far-fetched.

      hawk, esq.
      • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:23PM (#23847279) Homepage Journal
        * to disrupt society
        * to provide a plausible alibi for any of his perverted friends
        * to drive up the cost of prosecuting this type of crime so prosecutors will have less money to prosecute his brother-in-law who runs an organized crime family
        * kicks/jollies/juvenile reasons
        * someone paid him to do it
        * Why ask why
        * He wanted his work to get on CowboyNealBoard, er, I mean Slashdot
      • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:25PM (#23847299)
        Because the sites the malware connects through pay via click through.

        What that bit of malware probably did was go around to a bunch of sites that the author gets fees from and makes it look like someone is browsing them.

        Get a botnet of 1,000 computers going and it looks like hacker X convinced 1,000 people to view the site over and over.
      • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:25PM (#23847311) Homepage

        Personally, I'm skeptical about the idea of malware that secretly downloads and hides kiddie porn--why would the malware developer do that? I really can't fault the emploeyr for not considering such an idea and investigating it.
        Providing a layer of protection between the source nad the potential customers? I doubt an ad server serving up illegal images would be alive for very long.
      • by AxemRed (755470) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:29PM (#23847363)
        I would say that the scripts surf a list of shady sites to get hits on banner ads. I imagine that, even though they don't stay up as long, kiddie porn sites may have ads too...
      • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:39PM (#23847503)
        Personally, I'm skeptical about the idea of malware that secretly downloads and hides kiddie porn--why would the malware developer do that?

        I've actually seen this sort of thing a couple times... not for kiddie porn luckily. Just movies (hollywood) and warez back before p2p.

        As you can imagine finding servers to host and distribute this sort of stuff can be difficult. So why not compromise some random persons laptop, setup an ftp server, irc, dynamic dns, and whatever else... and then use it as a free and 'anonymous' remote host and storage.

        It wouldn't surprise me in the least that this could be in use for kiddie porn distribution.

        I really can't fault the emploeyr for not considering such an idea and investigating it.

        When dealing with any case of child abuse including kiddie porn, one should ALWAYS be extremely cautious. Because whether he is innocent or not, people will never look at him the same way again.
        • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:07PM (#23847823)

          abuse including kiddie porn, one should ALWAYS be extremely cautious. Because whether he is innocent or not, people will never look at him the same way again.
          and this is why "zero tolerance" and "Megan's law" are tyranny.

          zero tolerance laws produce an extreme disincentive to properly and discretely investigate such things before slinging around an accusation which will ruin somebody's life.

          "Megan's law"s punish people after the official debt to society has been paid. If you are so sure pedophilia is an incurable, life-long disease, than imprison them for life or develop a house arrest program, but you can't simply toss these sex offenders out, put a big neon "child molester" sign over their head, and pretend they have the same rights, or are not in danger of vigilantism.

      • by Sparks23 (412116) * on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:46PM (#23847601)
        From my (admittedly cursory) read of the article, I gather they claim the malware was trying to pop up the images to a broken account. I.e., the malware downloaded the images (hence their being in the temp directory) and tried to display, but then failed. Thus, the user never saw that the laptop was doing this, or else he could've gone, 'uhm, something is very wrong with this machine.'

        If this is true, though, the real question then becomes how they didn't notice the virus on the machine when reconfiguring things (poorly) for the new user. At that point, if the defense argument is accurate, the malware should have still been able to display this stuff, and you'd think the IT guys would have noticed...
      • by networkBoy (774728) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:53PM (#23847671) Homepage Journal
        Your skepticism is mis-placed.
        There is more than one kind of malware.
        One kind sends Phishing Spam / Viagra spam / etc.
        Another performs DDoS attacks.
        A third acts as a distributed FTP/Fileshare server so that the guilty have a place to hide & share their wares and not have a single point of being shut down by the authorities. Whether this be lists of CC numbers or kiddie porn is immaterial.
        -nB
      • by Killeroid (1156515) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:01PM (#23847755) Homepage
        Personally, I'm skeptical about the idea of malware that secretly downloads and hides kiddie porn--why would the malware developer do that? The malware wasn't downloading and hiding kiddie porn From the article: "Loehrs found a script file that was set to go out and run its own searches on foreign Web sites, she said. "And once you get into some of these foreign sites, you'll get all kinds of stuff you don't want to see. "Actually, the child pornography was just a very small portion of it. The majority was just bizarre porn. He was being hit with everything," she added." The malware author was probably running a pay per click scam by using his malware to visit a bunch of sites and making it seem a bunch of visitors were browsing the site.
      • by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @10:46PM (#23849593) Homepage Journal
        Personally, I'm skeptical about the idea of malware that secretly downloads and hides kiddie porn--why would the malware developer do that?

        Why would it matter whether you believe someone might have a motive? I don't understand why people might commit all sorts of crimes, because I'd never do that. But some people commit those crimes anyway. Lots of people have motives to frame others for crimes.

        In any case, on to methods. I have a demo on my web site of how to do "preloading" in javascript. Is javascript enabled in your browser? If so, my demo shows how I can create a web page that quietly downloads images from arbitrary URLs, without showing them to you. This may be used to load those images into your browser's cache. It has valid uses, such as to speed up subsequent downloading of other pages from my site which use those images. But I can just as easily fill your browser's cache with porn. Unless you know how to scan your browser's cache (or have the sense to purge it frequently), you'll never know what I've done to you. My code (actually my web server) also tells me your IP address, which I can use to send the authorities in to examine your browser's cache.

        I'd be willing to testify in court how easy this is. And give the court a copy of my code (though they could easily download it from my web site ;-).

        And yes, I usually do browse with scripting disabled. This was typed into a Firefox 3.0 window, which has the NoScripts extension installed. My demo code won't work against me.

    • Many companies only have limited IT capability and many will just hand over a computer from an ex employee to a new employee with very minor changes. Saves a bunch of work reinstalling stuff.
  • yet another (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:05PM (#23847045)
    case where you can't help but think "this can't be right".. making certain types of information illegal to possess just doesn't make practical sense in the context of the Internet, no matter how morally objectionable we find it.
    • Re:yet another (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ethan Allison (904983) <slashdot@neonstream.us> on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:26PM (#23847317) Homepage
      I'm not disagreeing with you here, but how can you stop people from exploiting kids if you make possession legal? Make obtaining it illegal? That seems like a huge loophole waiting to happen...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr EdgEy (983285)
        Production (!), and distribution.
      • Re:yet another (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Vancorps (746090) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:54PM (#23847677)

        You rely on child exploitation laws which are already in place perhaps? If a child is harmed there are plenty of laws in the way to make sure there is a measure of justice.

        This pretty much equates to outlawing the symptoms of a problem such as the tremors of an alcoholic in need of smooth refreshing goodness.

        In that context the video is simply evidence against the person who actually harmed a child. That sounds like appropriate punishment to me.

        I don't think that will happen though and I actually agree with the current law, at some point I think certain kinds of content serve no use to society, such as malware and kiddie porn but I can understand that information should always be legal. I think in this context we could argue that it is not information and is simply objectionable content.

        When something is no good for anyone I think it's safe to say that it should be illegal. If someone comes along that can prove it does some good then the issue needs to be readdressed and evaluated for legitimacy.

        • Re:yet another (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:56PM (#23848389)
          This pretty much equates to outlawing the symptoms of a problem such as the tremors of an alcoholic in need of smooth refreshing goodness.

          I once heard that described as "trying to cure diarrhea by tinkering with the plumbing in your house."

          When something is no good for anyone I think it's safe to say that it should be illegal. If someone comes along that can prove it does some good then the issue needs to be readdressed and evaluated for legitimacy.

          That, ultimately, isn't the issue. The problem here is that the mere accusation of child pornography is punitive to such a degree that, even if you're not ultimately convicted, you'll suffer severe consequences. That's not what the Founders had in mind for our legal system (as corrupted as their vision has become.) Somebody who gets nailed for drug possession or dealing (which, given how much the government spends to stop it must be a crime worse than murder) doesn't go through what a person merely accused of possessing child pornography does. It's one thing to punish those who break the law, those who hurt other people ... but we're at the point where law enforcement is doing as much if not more damage. Time to restore a little balance, time to make sure that we're actually putting the right people away. Most of us complain vociferously about the RIAA's anti-piracy campaign because whether you did the crime or not, whether you go to court or settle, you've been punished by the legal system. A person who has been accused of a crime shouldn't have their life destroyed over the accusation. But that is exactly what's happening here.

          Better to let a guilty man go free than imprison an innocent one. There are those who disagree with that, who believe that a few thousand wrongly imprisoned souls are a small price to pay "for the children" but they're wrong. If child pornography is truly as big a problem as everyone says (I'm not saying that it isn't, I just haven't looked up any numbers on it) then give law enforcement the funds they need to go after the real criminals, the ones who exploit the innocent is such a horrible way. To do otherwise is no justice at all.
      • Re:yet another (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nbert (785663) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:08PM (#23847833) Homepage Journal
        Can't offer any smart solution to the problem. However, I remember that back in ~2000 cnet had an article about the issue which argued that the lower barrier in obtaining such material should result in lower penalties, because it has become far more likely to obtain such material accidentally. It's just way too easy to stumble across questionable material on the net and sometimes people don't even know that it is on their hdd. Very different times compared to the situation when applicable laws were created.

        Wouldn't remember it was cnet if it wasn't so much out of their usual scope. However, I think the author had a very valid point. And if someone knows how to get this article I'd highly appreciate it - couldn't find it in recent years...
      • Re:yet another (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:26PM (#23848033) Homepage Journal
        And also, how can we possibly stop people from murdering each other unless we arrest people who have crime scene photos?
      • Re:yet another (Score:5, Insightful)

        by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:52PM (#23848331) Homepage
        Make _intentionally_ having it a crime. Yes, this does create a harder burden for prosecution, but why should someone be prosecuted for something that 1) they didn't actually do, 2) didn't even know was going on, and 3) didn't even know they had. If we prosecute such people, we might as well just admit we're no longer "home of the free" but are rather just another pathetic abusive government.
    • Re:yet another (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:42PM (#23847559) Homepage
      Let's say you own a large rural property, and someone sets up a drug lab deep in the forest. Just because in some cases people might be unaware of what's happening on their property, it doesn't make sense to make drug labs illegal? Because in some cases people might be unaware of what's happening on their computer, it doesn't make sense to make information illegal to posess? I'm sorry but that'd be a pretty strange world. If things are uncertain, it's the prosecution's job to stick it to them "beyond a reasonable doubt". The defense tries to tear that evidence apart, like they just did. I don't see the problem with that system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blitziod (591194)
        possesion of child porn is teh only possesion crime in the USA that does not carry defenses for people who do so unknowingly or by accident. The easiest thing to do is change this law.
      • Re:yet another (Score:5, Insightful)

        by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:29PM (#23848061)
        " Because in some cases people might be unaware of what's happening on their computer, it doesn't make sense to make information illegal to posess?"

        You told it: it doesn't make sense to make information illegal to posess. I thought that to be self-evident in "the land of the free".
    • Re:yet another (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:07PM (#23847817)
      Possession crimes in general are bad ideas. You can make anyone a criminal with only minimal effort.

      "Officer, I'd like to make an anonymous tip. So-and-so Smith is carrying marijuana in a plastic baggie taped to the inside of his bumper, license plate 555-555. He parks at workplace. I overheard him talking about selling it."

      Bam. Reasonable cause, possession, and intent to distribute despite the fact that Mr. Smith has led a blameless life. Because of someone's grudge and quick work with masking tape, he's now a felon.

      Possession crimes are super-easy to prove in court and are therefore a favorite of prosecutors.

      "Here's a photo of the illicit material in his possession. What do you think, jury? If he had the material in his possession, he's guilty of the crime."

      Of course there are absolutely no corrupt officials or police officers who would ever plant such evidence. If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.

      Bonus: Captcha == "Bunkmate" which is what this guy narrowly avoided being plowed by.
  • by reallocate (142797) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:07PM (#23847063)
    This guy should get one. And, meanwhile, insure no one touchs that laptop.
  • Alas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rustalot42684 (1055008) <fake&account,com> on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:08PM (#23847075)
    If people hadn't jumped to conclusions and had done a more thorough investigation, this man would not have lost his job and reputation.
    • Re:Alas (Score:4, Interesting)

      by PhoenixAtlantios (991132) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:38PM (#23847479)
      What safe actions could they have realistically taken in that situation to investigate it? If you mess around with investigating that yourself and don't immediately hand the situation over to the police don't you risk incriminating yourself by 'protecting' the person from the police?

      I'm honestly curious to know; how could they have possibly investigated this more?
  • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:09PM (#23847085) Homepage Journal
    I've heard of people getting screwed by their bosses before but this is ridiculous.

    If he hadn't had the resources to hire his own expert, he would be in prison and branded a sex offender for life, all because his boss didn't practice safe hex.
  • by Muckluck (759718) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:09PM (#23847087)
    This is a tough lesson learned for Mr. Fiola, but the lesson is, always request a clean build when receiving new equipment in the workplace. That would have eliminated the malware and given him a clean system to work on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130)
      And they say "No, you take this laptop as-is and use it" with the same unthinking and unresponsive attitude with which they fired him, and then where is he?

      Of course that is probably a better circumstance under which to be looking for a new job than the one he's in now...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rogerborg (306625)
        I'd imagine that if he's got a half decent lawyer that he'll never have to work again.
    • So expecting them to ask for a clean build is asking to much. Their IT department should have known better and done this automatically.
    • by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:18PM (#23847197)
      And how does the average corporate employee even know whether he/she has a "clean build" when issued a new laptop. Most times a laptop arrives pre-imaged with an OS and a standard suite of software tools. Unless you go poking around the filesystem you can't really tell how "clean" the machine is.
  • Dayam. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:10PM (#23847097) Journal
    Man... reason # 10,297,668 why I primarily use Linux as my desktop @ work.


    Not that Linux (or OSX, or any of 'em for that matter) are 100% crack-proof, but putting one's career at the mercy of common malware and the only safety net is a sharp eye at the IT department?


    OTOH, I suspect this guy (if he plays his cards right and has a sharp lawyer on retainer) may never have to work another day in his life.

    /P

  • by adsl (595429) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:14PM (#23847155)
    The real crime here is that the charges were dropped thru "insufficient evidence".... Why is this loophole allowed to prosecutors? How about. "We are sorry we should never have arrested you, fired you and will will formally erradicate all your arrest process so it never happened and give you backed dated pay and legal expenses".
  • by GroeFaZ (850443) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:17PM (#23847189)
    "As soon as you mention child pornography, everybody's senses go out the window, she [the computer forensics expert] said."

    Sounds too familiar. What's really fucked up is that his former employers "stand by their decision", namely to fire the guy. The bare minimum would be a public excuse, an offer to let him work there again, and probably a hefty compensation if he refused. But that's not likely to happen since by definition, the government knows best.
  • by Strange Ranger (454494) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:21PM (#23847239)
    DIA spokeswoman Linnea Walsh confirmed Fiola "was terminated," but declined to say if any internal discipline has been meted out as a result of his name being cleared in court.

    "We stand by our decision," she said.
    So now the DIA is trying cover it's own ass for giving him "a ticking time bomb" and then firing him for it and ruining any social life he had.
    The worst part is that the assholes at DIA responsible for the horrible "roll-out" of a replacement laptop, and the PHB's responsible for firing him w/o doing proper research into the issue will not be punished in any way. THEIR lives won't be ruined. Even if he wins a lawsuit. It'll be money from the DIA, but no real punishment to the people involved.

    Somebody find all their names and contact info (I'm too lazy) and post it. Let's send the info to Russia with requests for Viagra and child porn.

    Seriously though, The Office is funny on TV, but tragic in real life. These people should be arrested for harassment and criminal negligence at the least.

    What kind of laws can we enforce (and/or pass) to truly punish the individuals responsible for shit like this? Lawsuit money from the organization isn't even close to justice.
  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:21PM (#23847241) Journal
    I've worked for the state of MA and I've run into the same problem many times on their computers. Depending on where you work their IT people are really not that knowledgeable or hardworking and I can't blame them, they have to work with microsoft crap, I would be slacking too.

    I was even fooled by it once. I found pr0n bookmarks under a cute girl's login and I was thinking "Daaamn this girl is a freaky.." for a few seconds until I realized what it was. I could easily see how people would jump the gun and over react when they find actual material on a computer and not just bookmarks however they should at least ASK the person if they're guilty and send it for investigation first.

  • by tacokill (531275) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:31PM (#23847393)
    The fact the he was charged with child porn. I've been following this case in the news because it is such an odd case. As TFA says, they eventually figured out it was viruses and malware doing the downloading of images (over the web, BTW). Ok, fair enough.

    However, another article (can't find the link, sorry) was interviewing one of the detectives involved with the case. What he said was something along the lines of "there was a LOT of porn on the computer. 99% of it was just gross stuff, not illegal. But we did find a few pics of young girls.". Which makes me wonder --- how, exactly, do they define child porn?

    Are they just arresting people because pictures look young?

    ...or did they find real kiddie porn on there?

    It just seems odd that all of a sudden there is all this kiddie porn out on the publicly available internet and it does not draw attention. I would presume, with Tor, Freenet, etc all of that activity would be driven underground (ie: encrypted). Is there really "spam" and popup based kiddie porn still going on in the WWW?

    I ask because I have...err...my friend has not seen it since the early early days of the internet. Back then, you truly could stumble across it accidentally. It hasn't been that way for a long long time though, in my experience.

    • by locokamil (850008) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:40PM (#23847505) Homepage
      You mean your friend's experience, right?
    • by Riktov (632) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @11:08PM (#23849803) Journal
      What's even more bizarre is the claim (in the summary) that some of the images portrayed incest.

      Sure, with child porn one could make a reasonable guess -- there is no confusing an image of a 6-year-old as possibly 18. But for "incest images", the only "portrayal" could be from a text label (in the image, or the filename), or some blatanly obvious visual hints in the photos, which would have been *deliberately* placed to convey the idea that the image portrays incest. There is no way to deduce from an image of two naked people, without knowing their identities as well, that they are engaging in incest.

      Saying they the images portray incest based on the labels is no more justified than saying that they portray space aliens, or members of the White House staff, or Osama bin Ladin in disguise.

      And are images depicting (or just claiming to depict) incest a crime?
  • I saw the movie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ranger (1783) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:38PM (#23847475) Homepage
    It's called Farm Sluts [youtube.com]. Hilarious! Well not for the guy in real life.
  • by analog_line (465182) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @07:48PM (#23847617)
    Get child porn on your enemy's computer as long as he runs Windows (or whatever else), total deniability because there's so much malware out there. This scares the bejeezus out of me.
  • by GoodNicksAreTaken (1140859) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @08:07PM (#23847825)
    I'm involved in investigating things like this in my line of work. The argument I've worked on the most was that X worker was on eBay at 6am, and then there is a record of X on at 12pm, so we fired X for waisting time spending 6 hours of their day on eBay. Everyone of the cases I've helped investigate the employee was a few months from reaching a big pay increase or increase in retirement benefits.

    Their team also loves to hand us data that their forensic person has pulled from Windows without giving us access to the original drive. When questioned on how he obtained the data it was clear that their certified forensic expert didn't make a locked copy of the drive but logged in and poked around. The certification their contractor has is from IACIS http://www.cops.org/certifications [cops.org]

    None of them so far has gone to a judge AFAIK but I know my PHB has testified for an arbitrator and the arbitrator ruled there was insufficient evidence for a dismissal.
  • Back to Salem? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archtech (159117) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:47AM (#23852765)
    I'm seeing a fascinating parallel with the old-time witch trials. People who didn't know much about anything, but were filled with fear and confusion, were always happy to find a scapegoat. Nothing cheers you up as much as kicking the shit out of Bad People. If you can hang them, or burn them alive, that's a bonus.

    So these regular folks would notice that somebody (often a lonely old woman) acted a bit oddly. Instead of using a bit of imagination and charity to understand why, they leaped to the conclusion that she was consorting with the Devil. Just as some Native American tribes got their fun from torturing prisoners to death - life was DULL in those days - torturing and killing a witch just made their year. (Another possible parallel is that those who informed on "witches" often did a deal with the state whereby they split the victim's - often considerable - possessions between them).

    Nowadays it's not quite respectable to torture people or burn them alive (unless they're foreign Bad People). But these here pedophiles... we should string 'em all up.

    There seems to be a type of mentality that doesn't even want to understand how nasty pictures can wind up on someone's laptop, without the owner's knowledge or consent. It's just a great chance to get someone down and kick him, kick him, kick him...
  • by Relayman (1068986) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:44AM (#23855119)
    This story excerpt infuriates me. The story is about how the man has been exonerated of downloading child porn. The summary describes events that happened years ago; the story is the finding that he is innocent (and will probably receive several million dollars in damages from his former employer).

    The point here is that an innocent man has been through hell because IT screwed up and didn't set up SMS correctly so his computer had numerous security holes. The summary doesn't convey this, of course, resulting in the stupid (and, actually, offensive) comments from those who assume that he was guilty based on the summary. Folks, this is a real story about a real person, not something from xkcd. You should not be so quick to judge, especially when you didn't RTFA.

    The guy might be rotting the the slammer somewhere if it weren't for his wife who rounded up the competent resources to find out what really happened.

    I am infuriated because of the occasional poor summary posting that Slashdot seems to be proud of. If I see another story about an air-powered car again, I am going to puke and stop reading.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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