Many computer users are aware of the dangers of malware and viruses that can steal your identity and cause all kinds of problems, but now pedophiles are reportedly using malware that can make you an unsuspecting pedophile.
A computer virus can steal more than your identity. It can also steal your reputation and frame you by depositing heinous pictures and videos on your computer that can be remotely exploited by pedophiles and make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.
You might not be aware that your computer has been compromised until the police come knocking on your door. It can end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove your innocence.
The Associated Press investigated cases affecting innocent people that were branded as pedophiles after a co-worker or loved one came across child porn that was placed on a PC through a virus.
Court records were examined and interviews were conducted with prosecutors, police, computer examiners and people whose computers were found to contain child porn.
Compromised Laptop Visited 40 Child Porn Sites per Minute
One case reportedly involved Michael Fiola, a former investigator with the Massachusetts agency that oversees workers’ compensation. In 2007, Fiola’s bosses became suspicious when the internet bill for his laptop revealed that he used 4 1/2 times more data than his colleagues. Child porn was found on his computer by a technician.
Fiola ended up being charged with possession of child pornography and fired from his job. He was shunned by friends, received death threats and his car tires were slashed. He ended up spending $250.000 on legal fees to defend himself and it took a toll on his health.
An inspection of his laptop revealed that it was severely infected — programmed to visit as many as 40 child porn sites per minute, an inhuman feat. After performing tests to confirm that Fiola’s laptop was hacked into and compromised, the charge was dropped 11 months after it was filed.
Security software maker F-Secure Corp. estimates that at any moment, about 20 million of the estimated 1 billion internet-connected PCs worldwide are infected with viruses that can give hackers full control. Email attachments from unknown sources and malicious Web pages often infect unprotected computers.
Compromised computers can allow pedophiles to tap someone else’s computer to surf child porn sites while collecting images or video along the way that can be viewed remotely when the compromised computer is online. Child porn can also be put on an unsuspecting users computer in an attempt to frame the PC’s owner.
Proving How Child Porn got on Your Computer can be Difficult
One of the first publicly known cases of people being victimized involved two men in the United Kingdom who were cleared of child porn charges in 2003 when viruses were shown to have been responsible for infecting their PCs with child porn.
One case led to a defense contractor’s PC being infected with email or a poisoned pop-up ad that downloaded offensive pictures to it. In the other case, a virus highjacked the man’s homepage and displayed child porn that was found by his 7-year-old daughter. After spending more than a week in jail and three months in a halfway house, the man lost custody of his daughter.
Proving how child porn got on your computer can be difficult and many prosecutors say that blaming a computer virus is a new version of an old ploy, but forensic examiners say that it would be hard for a pedophile to get away with their crime using a bogus virus defense.
Regardless of how careful they may be, child porn collectors have a tendency to leave incriminating emails, DVDs or other clues. Virus defenses are no match for that type of evidence, but again, defending yourself against those types of charges can be costly.
It’s important to make sure your computer has the proper defenses against spyware, trojans and viruses and that you take the necessary steps to make sure your computer is secure with the latest security updates. Don’t become an unwitting victim or an unsuspecting pedophile.