Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't let this happen to you or your students!

UPDATE: Check out this blog post from Mr. Herbert Horner, a computer forensics expert who testified in defense of Julie Amero.

Two recent articles are making me think it's time to teach my "Viruses, Spyware, and Spoofs, Oh My!" workshop again.

Julie Amero, a 40 year old substitute teacher, was recently convicted of counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child. While substituting at a school in 2004, Amero's computer would not stop displaying adult images on the screen. An endless cycle of popup windows kept appearing, despite her best efforts to close them. A computer expert testifying in her defense confirmed that there was spyware on the computer. According to some reports, the school's filter was not working because the license had expired. Here's the complete article from the Norwich Bulletin.

An Arizona teenager faced child pornography charges after his home was raided and computer confiscated by authorities. Computer forensic expert Tammi Loehrs discovered over 200 infected files on the family computer, opening up "back doors" for hackers to control their computer remotely. The young man's story was featured on ABC's 20/20 and you may view a video and transcript of the story here. The family has also started a website called Justice for Matt--

Two very scary stories that could have been prevented. Too often we put our trust in Internet filters, but some bad stuff still makes it through (i.e. Google images). We require students to sign AUPs every year, but I wonder how often someone takes the time to explain the potential risks, and to teach students how to protect themselves and their computers AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL. The students in turn could teach their parents. There are so many free anti virus and spyware tools available, there's no reason this should have ever happened in the first place.

We don't allow students to drive without driver's education, and they can't go hunting until they take a gun safety class. We would never think of sending an elementary or middle school student off alone into a big city, but as long as they sign their AUP they can get on the Internet. I think it's time to require some sort of classroom instruction in Internet safety for all students (and their parents and teachers too). Many schools are already doing this using free resources like NetSmartz or iSafe, but the two stories I cited are evidence that we're not doing enough yet.

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