Wakeup Call
From InfoAve Premium - Issue #176 - March 2, 2007

Maybe some of you still don't know Julie Amero. She's a 40 year-old substitute teacher who faces up to 40 years in prison for allegedly exposing a class of 11 and 12 year-olds to pornography. And it's been big news on the Web but (naturally) little news in the mainstream media. Maybe the mainstream media has been too busy worrying about what's going to happen with Anna Nicole Smith?

We'll summarize here for the sake of brevity ( you can read the whole story by visiting this page ). It appears to me that Julie Amero is not an experienced computer user. In fact, it appears, she barely knows how to turn a computer on and off. And, I am sure all of us can remember when we were first learning computers and how totally mysterious everything about computers was.

When assaulted by a barrage of popups cause by spyware/adware/malware, she didn't know how to stop it. The furious explosion of advertising popup windows which began appearing from nowhere continued unremittingly. And I'm sure that all of us can relate to that experience.

Some of these popup advertisements contained pornographic images. Unfortunately for Julie, all of this happened in the presence of school-aged children, some of whom could see what was taking place on the computer screen.

This resulted in the charges against Julie Amero for which she now faces 40 years in prison. And if she is sentenced to prison, this will set a precedence that will have far-reaching ramifications. The possibilities are frightening.

Just think about what Julie's conviction could mean. l conclude that this decision could have terrifying ramifications for innocent people. I really don't think convicting innocent people is a good thing. It seems to me there are enough miserable slimeballs in this world to keep the police and prosecutors busy enough.

Our legal system seems sadly stuck in the mire of the old, pre-internet era. The law cannot seem to open its eyes to the fact that this kind of thing happens. It happens to tens - perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent people everyday. Luckily, most of the time, it doesn't happen in front of a group of children. Because the legal system is stuck in a world of out-of-date precedents and outdated and seemingly inflexible laws, Julie Amero now faces 40 years in prison.

What if she were you?

It seems to me, after reading all the facts, that the computer Ms. Amero was using (which was owned by the school) was infected with malware, spyware, and/or adware. The school's anti-spyware program on this computer was hopelessly out of date. The subscription to the software had expired. And, in fact, the anti-spyware program that the school had installed on this particular computer is so old that the manufacturer doesn't even make it anymore and sure doesn't support it anymore. In other words, there was no anti-spyware on this computer at all.

But, all that doesn't matter to the police or prosecutors - who are wallowing around somewhere in the 1970's. I guess Ms. Amero looked like a easy conviction - hurray for justice!. A quick conviction seems to be this prosecutor's only concern.  A feather in the cap of ambitious prosecutor no doubt. Perhaps he has political ambitions beyond the confines of a seedy little office.

But what ever happened to justice? Isn't the law supposed to protect the innocent? Shouldn't justice be the goal of every law enforcement official. Shouldn't the need for justice outweigh the need for a quick conviction?

If you're looking for justice - you won't find it in this case.

Before we go on with this "rant" I'd like you to watch a video  and read more about it here (warning if you are upset by "adult' images - don't watch the video) prepared by anti-spyware guru Ben Edelman. It shows how spyware/adware and other malware, often installed without the user's informed consent (or sometimes without the user's knowledge) can cause the same phenomenon that might put Julie Amero in prison for 40 years.

Maybe the fact the Julie Amero faces 40 years in prison will serve as a wake-up call to you, to the law, to the Internet community, and to everyone - that adware and spyware are basically inseparable - birds of a feather -kissing cousins. We've been telling you all along that when you install adware or spyware on your computer, you're taking risks. And we've covered those risks over and over and over again in our newsletters. You're probably sick of reading about it by now, aren't you?

It's not all black and white. There are shades of gray. But, you don't even want those shades of gray on your computer.

There are some really malicious and horrible spyware programs out there - and the names of those programs are, by now, quite well-known. And there are those cute little adware programs out there that seem rather benign by comparison. But hear me when I tell you that ANY software you install on your computer that has the potential to spawn popup advertisements or redirect your searches or change your browser settings, should be avoided! Because, if you allow any program to serve advertisements, popups, or redirect your searches, mistyped URLS, or change your browser settings, it puts you in a position of trust. You're essentially trusting the application that is spawning the ads and making changes to your browser that it will serve only family-safe ads and redirect you to family-safe sites.

As we've pointed out in our Zango Tango Rant, the Zango Toolbar, which is targeted toward young people has some very sexually explicit content available. And even, SmileyCentral - FunWebProducts, panders its "Bikini Babes" to children. Would you want your child or grandchild gawking at those fawning Bikini Babes? Are those good role models for young girls?

We have always put our readers first by exposing companies whose installation tactics and programs we feel are questionable - programs that may put your computer at unnecessary peril. Well, we keep fighting the good fight and now it has happened again - we've been threatened with legal action for warning our readers (YOU) about the so-called "Recipe Tool Bar" (AKA Starware); its installation tactics, its euphemistic privacy policy and its bundling of several questionable utilities into one adware/browser-manipulating bundle. Apparently companies like Starware (MIVA) are embarrassed by the truth. Because that's all we did was tell the truth. See for yourself.  Now, won't you please read the threatening letter we received this week, and our response by visiting this page.

We will continue to fight for you against what we believe to be questionable software programs. Programs which claim to give you something of value in exchange for serving up advertisements, redirecting your "mistyped URLs", hijacking your searches, or manipulating your browser or search results in any way - any questionable program which puts you in the position of trust. These companies are getting ridiculously wealthy by using your computer as a billboard for whatever advertisements they wish to serve; turning your search results into an advertising bonanza (for them), modifying your browser and search engine settings, and otherwise manipulating you and your computer for their benefit. When you allow this to happen, you might be in for some surprises. If you don't believe us, just go back and read the story about Julie Amero.

Let this serve as a wakeup call for you. Or at least a reminder.

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