Teacher To Face 40 Years in Jail for Pop-Up Traps

Dennis Faas's picture

The past few weeks, I started following a news story that raises my ire! No, it isn't about Microsoft and Vista -- it's about a substitute school teacher that has been caught in what is termed a ... well, we'll call it an adult-oriented Pop-up Trap (if you know what I mean).

To begin with, a 'Pop-up' Trap (or a 'Mouse' Trap) is when an Internet surfer clicks on a web site and is treated to a cascade of pop-ups, usually advertising offensive material geared toward twisted individuals.

These ads come in at such a high rate of speed, the user cannot keep up with them. The content is also rather offensive since they depict minimally dressed or totally undressed women. If you have never experienced the pop-up 'storm' you have no idea how frustrated it will make you since you lose any control over your browser and system. The only way to stop it is to power your system off, risking damage to system files on the drive.

Anyway, back to the story --

The substitute teacher, working in a Middle School in Connecticut, had started her first day in the classroom of a seventh grade language arts class. As she was taking over the class, she was instructed to leave the computer powered on since she did not have a password for it.

Suddenly, a Pop-up Trap was triggered and proceeded to display dozens of offensive pop-up windows to the open view of the youths in the classroom. The series of errors, misconceptions, and misunderstandings have resulted in the teacher being convicted of various charges that could result in her receiving a prison sentence of up to 40 years!

Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., who works for The Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet, has prepared a monograph that discusses the case and expresses the concerns and views of the Internet Security community.

The general viewpoint of computing professionals is that although Ms. Julie Armero did not know how to stop the pop-up's, she was not responsible for them appearing on the monitor.

The whole story brings out one specific thing about the Internet, computers, and children. You have to take an active part in Internet usage in the home! If you have school age children in your home, you MUST take preventative action to protect them. They won't like it, but it has to be done!

There are two areas that must be addressed.

Technical security

Computers need effective firewalls, security software to protect against all forms of malware, and a browser that limits pop-ups. Filtering software can provide some protection (while presenting other concerns). But it is likely less effective against the malware and porn, er, pop-up traps because these devices will frequently lead to access to sites with URLs that have not yet been found by the filtering company.

Peer-to-peer networking software should never be installed on any computer that a child has access to because this can be a source of pornography and malware. It is critically important that everyone understands that none of these technologies will provide 100% protection.


All Internet users – adults and children – must understand how to avoid accidental access and exactly what to do if they get "pop-up trapped." Unfortunately, the false security that is grounded in reliance on fallible filtering software has resulted in a failure to teach these strategies.

I suppose it could safely be said that Malware does have a negative effect, then. From a rather minor annoyance to a possible 40 year prison sentence is a rather large jump. What is even worse, the Internet is truly global geographically as well as in scope. There are cultures left in the world, that take a dim view of such things if not to exact a far worse punishment then prison.

We can't shut down the developers of such trash, but we can do some things to stop it from being displayed on our screens. Here are a few helpful strategies:

  1. Install a good firewall. There are several really good free firewalls available so you have no excuse for not having one. Don't count on the Microsoft firewall since it is easily breakable!
  2. Install a good Anti-Virus application. Again there are several to chose from, some free and some not.
  3. Install a good Anti-Spyware/Adware application. Again, there are both free and commercial applications available. I have my own ideas about what is best in this arena. I like AdAware SE and Advanced Windows Care V2. Spybot Search & Destroy and others are paid registration applications that will do a good job for you.
  4. Install Firefox 2 since it has a very effective pop-up block included. It also has superior security features that IE 6 and 7 do not have.

In closing, I want to point out that the computers you use in your home, AND at work, are your responsibility. If you don't have the necessary protections, get them! You will be glad you did!

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