Inadequate Security on Employer-Provided Computer Could Lead to Arrest for Child Porn

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It was almost exactly a year ago that a Connecticut jury convicted substitute teacher Julie Amero because the computer in the classroom in which she was substitute teaching started displaying pornographic pop-ups during the the class.

That conviction was eventually thrown out after it was proven that the computer lacked adequate security protection and so had been compromised by malware, not by Ms. Amero, but apparently the criminal justice system hadn’t learned. Because over the past few weeks history repeated itself when Michael Fiola, of Massachusetts, faced criminal charges for possession of child pornography – which had been downloaded by malware onto the laptop which his place of work had provided to him – correction: which his place of work had provided to him without adequate anti-virus protection.


The investigation was triggered by Fiola’s employer – the Department of Industrial Accidents – when they noticed that Fiola’s Internet access bill had quadrupled. Investigators found the illegal material in his temporary Internet cache (not saved to his hard drive as a saved file, mind you – in his temporary cache). Michael Fiola was then fired, from the very job that had given him the compromised computer to start with.

Said Fiola’s lawyer, “Imagine this scenario: Your employer gives you a ticking time bomb full of child porn, and then you get fired, and then you get prosecuted as some kind of freak. Anybody who has a work laptop, this could happen to. Mike Fiola is a hunt-and-peck kind of computer guy. He can barely get on the Internet.”

Mrs. Fiola was even more succinct about her husband’s lack of technical prowess calling him a “computer-illiterate.”

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Still, Fiola was charged with possession of child pornography and, but for some very intrepid forensic researchers, he might be languishing in prison as you read this. Fortunately for Fiola, the charges were dismissed after both a forensic investigator for the defense, and two security specialists for the prosecution, agreed that Fiola’s laptop had been compromised by malware, which had in fact downloaded the illegal images from the Internet without Fiola’s knowledge.

Unfortunately for Fiola, he wasn’t cleared until after he was not only fired, but his name was spread across the news for having been charged with possession of child pornography. The Department of Industrial Accidents says that they are standing by their original decisions; Fiola, in return, says that he is suing the D.I.A. for “destroying our lives.”

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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