Framed for Child Porn by a PC Virus

The Associated Press has recently published news of an investigation it conducted into people being framed for child pornography by the use of computer viruses and other malware. The results make it clear that innocent people are having their lives ruined by government witch hunts for child pornography after unknowingly becoming victims of computer viruses.

Michael Fiola: Victimized by Virus, then by Massachusetts Government

Michael Fiola’s computer was infected by a virus that cost him his job, his life savings, and nearly his freedom. His life was threatened repeatedly. Even his car tires were slashed by somebody who heard the accusations against him. All this happened because the virus downloaded child porn to his computer and the government persecuted him for years before finally admitting that they couldn’t prove their case.

(from Framed for child porn by a PC virus)

“It’s an example of the old `dog ate my homework’ excuse,” says Phil Malone, director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “The problem is, sometimes the dog does eat your homework.”

The AP’s investigation included interviewing people who had been found with child porn on their computers. The AP reviewed court records and spoke to prosecutors, police and computer examiners.

One case involved Michael Fiola, a former investigator with the Massachusetts agency that oversees workers’ compensation.

In 2007, Fiola’s bosses became suspicious after the Internet bill for his state-issued laptop showed that he used 4 1/2 times more data than his colleagues. A technician found child porn in the PC folder that stores images viewed online.

Fiola was fired and charged with possession of child pornography, which carries up to five years in prison. He endured death threats, his car tires were slashed and he was shunned by friends.

Fiola and his wife fought the case, spending $250,000 on legal fees. They liquidated their savings, took a second mortgage and sold their car.

An inspection for his defense revealed the laptop was severely infected. It was programmed to visit as many as 40 child porn sites per minute — an inhuman feat. While Fiola and his wife were out to dinner one night, someone logged on to the computer and porn flowed in for an hour and a half.

Prosecutors performed another test and confirmed the defense findings. The charge was dropped — 11 months after it was filed.

The Fiolas say they have health problems from the stress of the case. They say they’ve talked to dozens of lawyers but can’t get one to sue the state, because of a cap on the amount they can recover.

“It ruined my life, my wife’s life and my family’s life,” he says.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office, which charged Fiola, declined interview requests.

Look In the Mirror: You are a Potential Target!

When is the last time you used a computer connected to the Internet? If it’s anytime more recent than about 10 years ago, especially if you still use one today, you could be the next person to be framed for downloading child pornography.

Have you been through a divorce? Fighting a child custody battle? Are you at odds with a former employer or employee? Any litigation pending? Any disputes with neighbors? If you can think of a single person who might have a gripe with you, you are even more a target for being framed for child pornography than the typical person who isn’t enmeshed in any conflict.

Even if you just end up with your credit card being stolen and/or email address being posted on a public forum, you can become a target for framing for child pornography. Just ask the thousands of people whose lives have been wrongfully destroyed by government persecution based upon their stolen credit card information being used to access child porn web sites in government witch-hunts such as UK’s Operation Ore and the US FBI mining public email lists for addresses, investigating thousands of people, and then lying to judges to request hundreds of search warrants because they could not honestly show any probable cause.

(from Judge Discards F.B.I. Evidence in Internet Case of Child Smut)

By BENJAMIN WEISER, March 6, 2003, NY Times
(also available from New York Times website)

A federal judge in Manhattan has thrown out the government’s evidence in an Internet child pornography case involving a Bronx man, in a ruling that could imperil scores of related prosecutions around the country.

The judge, Denny Chin of Federal District Court, ruled that the F.B.I. agents who had prepared a crucial affidavit had “acted with reckless disregard for the truth.” The ruling, dated Wednesday, was released yesterday, the same day that a federal judge in St. Louis, Catherine D. Perry, ordered evidence suppressed in a related case. Judge Perry, too, cited false statements in the affidavit.

The F.B.I. affidavit claimed that anyone who had signed up to join the Internet group at the center of the investigation automatically received child pornography from other members through an e-mail list.

This claim was used to obtain search warrants for the homes and computers of people who had joined the group, known as Candyman. The bureau later conceded that people who had signed up for the group – which also included chat sites, surveys and file sharing – could opt out of the mailing list and did not automatically receive pornography.

As a result, Judge Chin ruled, investigators would not have been justified in searching the home and computer of the Bronx man, Harvey Perez, who had signed up for the Candyman group but did not send or receive e-mail messages containing images.

“In the context of this case, a finding of probable cause would not be reasonable,” Judge Chin wrote. Most subscribers to the group – part of a larger site known as eGroups – elected to receive no e-mail, Judge Chin said. The eGroups site, which was acquired by Yahoo, and the Candyman group are no longer in operation.

Operation Candyman was announced with great fanfare a year ago by Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Thus far, more than 1,800 people have been investigated, and more than 100 arrested, an F.B.I. spokeswoman said. There have been around 60 convictions, many as a result of guilty pleas, she added. Some defendants have admitted to molesting children, officials have said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Casey Stavropoulos, said yesterday that the two court rulings were being reviewed. “The department remains committed,” she said, “to vigorously investigating and prosecuting the purveyors and distributors of child pornography.”

Defense lawyers in the cases praised the rulings. Nicole Armenta, who represents Mr. Perez, said: “The fact that someone visited a Web site, and you don’t know if they did anything wrong, can’t be a reason to go into their home and seize their computer.”

Daniel A. Juengel, a lawyer for Gregory Strauser, the defendant in the St. Louis case, called the rulings “a major victory for the Fourth Amendment,” which protects against illegal searches and seizures. Mr. Juengel said he believed the decisions would significantly change how the Justice Department handled search warrants involving Internet crime, and how judges looked at affidavits in such cases.

The F.B.I. spokeswoman had no comment on the rulings, or on the agents’ actions, and said that the agents would also have no comment. One agent, Geoffrey Binney, has left the F.B.I., and did not return a message left at his office seeking comment.

It could not be learned yesterday how many Candyman prosecutions have relied on the affidavit in question, but it appears that there could be many challenges.

Judge Chin noted that 700 copies of a draft version of the affidavit were sent to F.B.I. offices around the country for use in the investigation. In New York, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Brooklyn announced last July that 10 people, including Mr. Perez, were being charged in the Candyman investigation.

Without the false statement in the affidavit, Judge Chin said, all that remained was the allegation that Mr. Perez had subscribed to a Web site where unlawful images of child pornography could be downloaded.

“If the government is correct in its position that membership in the Candyman group alone was sufficient to support a finding of probable cause, then probable cause existed to intrude into the homes” of several thousand people, merely because their e-mail addresses were entered into the Web site, Judge Chin wrote.

“Here, the intrusion is potentially enormous,” the judge added. “Thousands of individuals would be subject to search, their homes invaded and their property seized, in one fell swoop, even though their only activity consisted of entering an e-mail address into a Web site from a computer located in the confines of their own homes.”

Easy to Frame A Target for Accessing Child Porn

It’s easy for an adversary or a corrupt law enforcement agent to frame you or anybody they would like once they have a few basic bits of often public information about you. Having your email address or IP address is enough that they can mount an attack on you to infect your computer with a virus, trojan, or other malware that will download child porn to your computer or to simply cause your computer to download illegal files, in this case child pornography.

Worse, they don’t even really need your email address or IP address. They can drive by your home or business and use your wireless network access point. If it is unsecured, you are wide open to being framed. If it uses any easily cracked security system such as 802.11 WEP, it won’t take them long to get into your access point. If you use WPA or WPA2, you’re more secure, but they may still be able to crack the security, especially if the adversary is somebody who once had authorized access to your network such as a former spouse or in-law or friend. One they are in, they can then issue HTTP get requests like a web browser would do. These requests will go to “honey pot” fake child porn web servers operated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Your IP address and the files requested will be recorded. That’s been enough information in the past to obtain convictions. There’s no need for them to actually even plant the evidence on your computers.

Then your adversary reports you to law enforcement for child pornography. They can do this anonymously. Or if they are law enforcement, they don’t have to do a thing — they just claim to a judge that they have uncovered evidence that you are a child pornographer. Next, they obtain a search warrant to raid you, seize your computers, cameras, cell phones, records, photo albums, DVDs, videotapes, and pretty much anything else they want. It’s been enough in the past to simply tell a techno-moron judge that they have a record of your IP address accessing a purported porn file on a FBI web server. They are not only willing to issue search warrants will that insufficient probable cause, they are sometimes even willing to convict you of a crime based upon that same evidence that anybody with reasonable computer and network expertise knows doesn’t uniquely identify anybody nor prove anything. If it’s not enough, law enforcement agents are often willing to lie to obtain search warrants as noted in the article about the FBI lying above.

When the cops show up to raid your home, if they or another adversary used the virus, trojan, or malware attack on you, then they will find the evidence they or other parties effectively planted on your computer from afar. You are screwed. Even if they find no such evidence, they can still misuse anything else they find. For instance, if you are a doctor, they can portray your textbooks and journals as child pornography. If you have a movie collection, they can claim that you are a porn-addict “based upon their expertise and training” and list off a few titles that have nudity to “prove” their point. And if you have kids, why your family photo albums may be rife with pictures they can use to portray you and your spouse as child pornographers just as the government attempted to do to the Demaree family as discussed in our article In US, Baby Bath Pictures Yield Living Hell for Family.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Even if you manage to escape a conviction and years in prison, it will destroy your life. You will have to prove your innocence. You may be under the mistaken notion that you are innocent until proven guilty. That portion of the US Constitution was long ago subverted by the government. In child abuse, family law, and sex crimes cases, the burden of proof is unconstitutionally reversed and you are for all intents and purposes assumed guilty until proven innocent. Even the government-manipulated mainstream press is starting to understand this:

(from AP IMPACT: Framed for Child Porn – by a PC Virus)

An Associated Press investigation found cases in which innocent people have been branded as pedophiles after their co-workers or loved ones stumbled upon child porn placed on a PC through a virus. It can cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence.

Public Lacks Understanding of Ease and Damage of False Accusations and Wrongful Prosecutions

Sadly, mainstream media personalities do not seem to appreciate that they are likely easy targets for a corrupt government and political class to attack if they say or write some opinion that the government does not like. If they write against Obama’s position on some political topic, they are at risk for being framed by the FBI or IT specialists working for a political party. What better way to discredit and drown out your opposition but to get them arrested and persecuted for child pornography?

Worse, it doesn’t even take a prosecution to destroy your life. Simply “leaking” the accusations to your employer, neighbors, friends, family, etc. can cause your life to be rapidly turned upside down. You may lose your business and professional licenses, be banned from any activities involving contact with children, and even have your own children taken away from you. All of this without a single charge for any crime.

(from They Stole My Life)

MILLIONS of us use credit cards in stores and online with barely a second thought. But when Simon Bunce bought goods with his supermarket credit card, it sparked a nightmare that saw him branded a pervert and cost him his highly paid job.

Even his family shunned him.

Despite his total innocence, he was arrested after his name and bank details from the card were used to access vile child porn websites.

And, terrifyingly, the dreadful scenario that engulfed the former RAF pilot could happen to anyone.

Simon, 46, said: “It’s the worst thing you can be accused of. When I was arrested I lost my job, my family, everything.

“I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping – I was at a very low ebb.

“I told my dad what had happened and he said, ‘I don’t want to talk to you, you filthy pervert,’ and hung up. We are still not reconciled.

“I went from earning £120,000 a year to £12,000 a year. And all this just from using a supermarket credit card, like millions of other people do.

“It can happen to anyone and does happen to innocent people. That’s why I want to tell what happened to me as a warning to people to protect their identities better.”

Simon, from Andover, Hampshire, attended a police station voluntarily after police turned up at his home with a search warrant.

He was immediately arrested and questioned, and his house was raided twice more over a six-month period in 2004 before police told him they would bring no charges.

They also raided the office where he worked as an executive at data centre Interxion, and his bosses sacked him on the spot – despite the fact he was never prosecuted.

When Simon told his father Peter, now 76, what had happened, he not only believed the lies but also told the rest of the family.

Simon’s brother Alistair, 42, and sister Fiona, 51, would not talk to him. Only his older brother Michael, 48, realised it must be a case of mistaken identity.

Simon is still not reconciled with his father, even though he has been able to prove conclusively that he was in London when his credit card details were entered into a computer in Jakarta, Indonesia, and on to a US child porn website called Landslide.

Government Terrorism

What is happening in nations such as the US and UK amounts to nothing short of government sponsored terrorism against individuals who are easy targets. Violations of civil rights, human rights, and Constitutional rights are the norm in these kinds of cases.

Even when the courts get it right and force the government to actually prove its case and it often can’t do so, the damage to the people targeted is often beyond repair. Already 39 people accused during UK Operation Ore committed suicide. Many more considered it.

Even if you manage to survive the damage from the accusations, without your job, your family, your home, and your reputation, what will you have left?

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