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Amero case spawns effort to educate
Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus 2007-06-19

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The independent group's analysis of the classroom computer, and vocal criticism from technology professionals across the Internet, convinced the prosecution to request its own digital forensics report from the state's crime laboratory. Following that analysis -- and after delaying Amero's sentencing four times to allow any new evidence to be uncovered -- the judge granted on June 6 a motion by the defense to overturn the verdict and allow a new trial.

"When the motion was accepted for a new trial, that was kind of a huge milestone for the group," said Sunbelt Software's Eckelberry. "You get a bunch of people together and this whole community thing is amazing."

The Amero case would not the first time that confusion about technology has led problematic prosecutions. In 2002, a 29-year-old network administrator was convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for sending 5,600 e-mail messages to customers of his former employer -- the now-defunct e-mail provider Tornado Development -- warning about a security hole in Tornado's service that left private messages vulnerable to unauthorized access. The prosecutors in the case argued, and the judge agreed, that McDanel was guilty of unauthorized access and abused Tornado's e-mail servers to send the messages. The prosecutors have since admitted their mistake and the case was overturned on appeal, but not before McDanel served 16 months in prison.

While such cases appear to account for a small number of prosecutions, the increased sophistication employed by bot masters and fraudsters in compromising victims' computer could mean that more muddled cases might be ahead.

"Thinking about the implications -- that any teacher could get infected after going online, have porn show up on their computer and go to jail for 40 years -- that's bad," said SecureWorks' Stewart. "My own sister is a teacher and she is not that far from Norwich. This could happen to her."

The Julie Group has started forming committees to focus on different tasks and continues to be run as an all-volunteer organization, Eckelberry said. The group has already started considering other cases.

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Amero case spawns effort to educate 2007-06-21
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