How Pedophiles Can Infect Your PC With Child Porn
By Opposing Views Editorial Staff , To Protect and Serve Opposing Views - 16 Hours Ago
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Many of us have experienced having a virus on our computers. It is an annoying, time-consuming, and sometimes expensive problem to solve. But it can be far more serious than that. Simply having a virus can lead you to prison, if the person who infected your computer is a pedophile who is using it to collect illegal child pornography.
The Associated Press conducted an investigation into this sinister use of viruses. What it found is astounding and disturbing.
Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they'll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.
The AP found several cases in which innocent people were branded as pedophiles and prosecuted after child porn was found on their computers. They all claimed the truth -- they didn't do it, that it was a computer virus. The problem with that explanation is that sometimes, real pedophiles falsely claim the same thing. Law enforcement doesn't know whom to believe.
"It's an example of the old `dog ate my homework' excuse," says Phil Malone, director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. "The problem is, sometimes the dog does eat your homework."
In one case, Michael Fiola was fired from his job with a Massachusetts state agency after his bosses found child porn on his state-issued laptop. After being charged with possession of child pornography, his friends shunned him, his tires were slashed, and there were threats made against him. Fiola and his wife fought the case, spending $250,000, which they got from their life savings and a second mortgage on their home. Invesigators later found the virus on his laptop, and the charges were dropped.
Fiola can sue the state to get his money back, but he's having a hard time finding a lawyer to take the case, because of caps on how much he can collect.
"It ruined my life, my wife's life and my family's life," he said.
Pedophiles operate these viruses in several ways. The simplest is to force someone else's computer to surf child porn sites, collecting images along the way. Or a computer can be made into a warehouse for pictures and videos that the pedophile can be vieweremotely when the PC is online.
"They're kind of like locusts that descend on a cornfield: They eat up everything in sight and they move on to the next cornfield," says Eric Goldman, academic director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. Goldman has represented Web companies that discovered child pornographers were abusing their legitimate services.
The only saving grace here is that police and prosecutors often times look for further evidence than just having images on a computer. Damon King, trial attorney for the U.S. Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section said pedophiles usually leave behind other incriminating evidence, such as e-mails, DVDs, and other clues. The absence of such evidence could help the innocent people whose computers have been hijacked.