How poor web security nearly lead to a jail term

The Julie Amero trial highlights the importance of security and making courts understand how the internet works.

new trial in June 2007

Amero, who was sick with heart problems and stress, was given the choice of defending herself or accepting a less serious misdemeanour charge. By this time she was too tired and wanted to get the case over with, so she accepted the charge, paid $100, and revoked her teaching credentials for life.

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"It was unfair," Eckelberry said. "But on the other hand- she's done."

The fallout

Because of the publicity surrounding the case, and the embarrasment to Connecticut's court, Eckelberry hoped that the case would make a difference to people's understanding of the issues. He believed that it had woken people up to the fact that technology wasn't always black and white. People could easily visit sites where you get porn pop-ups or obscene spam.

He said: "The images may get saved in your computer and someone could point accusingly at you. We know that there's spam and nuances, and you need real computer expertise.

"At this point it's like screaming witch, witch, witch! When you don't really know all the details," he adds. "Fundamentally it's what occurs in society when you have fear and ignorance in a situation.

According to Eckelberry, a big lesson from the case was that teachers needed to be trained in the IT skills of a modern technological world. Amero wasn't trained in computer skills and no idea what she was doing. Indeed, some would ask why, when faced with a barrage of pornographic popups in front of a class of children, didn't she simply turn off the monitor. She didn't because she believed that this would turn off the entire computer.

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He said: "The woman is sitting there, trying to turn off these pop-up windows. At 10.30am she goes to the faculty building and asks if someone could turn off the windows. Don't worry about it' is the reply. We'll send somebody. No help ever came."

"Julie Amero's crime was to be extraordinarily computer illiterate. She was one of the most computer illiterate people I know. Except for my mother," he says jokingly.

An ABC News audio interview with Julie Amero about the case is here.

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