Viruses can infect your PC with child porn.

As if you really needed yet another reason to make sure your computer is patched and you have a decent anti-virus solution installed, now comes word that an infected PC could lead to you being charged for having child pornography:

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.

Their situations are complicated by the fact that actual pedophiles often blame viruses — a defense rightfully viewed with skepticism by law enforcement.

“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.”

via AP IMPACT: Framed for child porn — by a PC virus by AP: Yahoo! Tech.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise considering that many trojans and viruses are designed to allow full access to your PC for any of a number of nefarious purposes be it the sending of spam email to launching DDoS attacks. It was only a matter of time before someone thought to use them as a handy repository for their child porn.

It is possible to successfully defend yourself in cases where you’re a victim of a computer virus, but it’s not cheap and it still destroys your reputation:

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 folks at F-Secure Corp. estimate that at any given time 20 million of the 1 billion Internet-connected PCs are infected with viruses that could give the bad guys full control. That estimate sounds a little conservative to me, I suspect it’s much higher than that. So make sure your systems are patched and secure. An ounce of prevention could save you a lot of trouble later.

19 thoughts on “Viruses can infect your PC with child porn.

  1. Buying a mac will prevent any possibility of that ever happening AND you will never have to run an anti-virus program.

    P.S., WordPress still sucks ass.

  2. Buying a Mac is not a guarantee. And we’ve gotten the message you don’t like WordPress. Stop coming around if you don’t like it.

  3. I suggest getting some ‘underground’ rootkit detection.. Google “rootkit swandog”..
    .
    Rootkits are the worst.. They hide from the API or masquerade as drivers..

    Had to use puppy linux bootdisk and some scary low-level sector editing to get rid of one I had…

    Every now and then, even under asymptomatic conditions, I do a deep scan for hidden drivers and services..

    RootRepeal, GMER, Killbox, etc. are very useful..

    Moloch: give Les half a chance man, it takes time to get stuff configured! 🙂

  4. “Buying a Mac is not a guarantee.”
    Actually, it is. I’ve been using Macs since 1992 and macs on the internet since 1997 and never once had malicious code on my Mac. There isn’t even a real virus in the wild.

  5. Actually, it’s not. While the number of Mac viruses are certainly lower than the PC, there have been active Mac viruses in the wild since 2006. Even Apple has acknowledged the potential threat recommending back in December of last year to install an anti-virus application on your Mac. That’s not even their earliest recommendation as they also suggested it back in June of 2007 and March of 2002.

    That said, it’s certainly less likely you’ll get a virus if you have a Mac because there are fewer of them and their market share isn’t enough to really make writing viruses for it worth the effort. Anyone who thinks the Mac is invulnerable, however, is an idiot.

  6. False. If you actually kept track of Mac news you would see that report was not accurate. Follow the link to the “antivirus suggestion” on apple’s site and you’ll get a 404 error because the suggestion was removed after a few hours.
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2550

    Oh, and what do we have here? http://www.apple.com/macosx/security/
    “Mac OS X doesn’t get PC viruses.”

    Being called “an idiot” by a PC user is not even remotely insulting. Its like a homeless guy calling somebody a bum.

  7. If it was removed later then the report was accurate. The fact that Apple removed it later to quell the crying of the fanboy faithful doesn’t make the report inaccurate nor does it change the fact that Apple has made the same recommendation repeatedly in the past or the fact that there are Mac OSX viruses out there.

    Security through obscurity will work for awhile. So long as Apple remains content to be second-place in the market I’m sure you’ll have nothing to worry about.

  8. You’ll note the phrasing used: “Mac OS X doesn’t get PC viruses.”

    Of course it doesn’t. It gets Mac viruses.

    Edited to add the following: You might want to look a little harder there, Moloch. On the bottom of that very same page you’ll find the following:

    The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box. However, since no system can be 100 percent immune from every threat, antivirus software may offer additional protection.

    Looks like Apple is hedging on that guarantee.

  9. More than 200% growth in 3 years is obscure? Linux is FAR more obscure (2% of the market) than the Mac has ever been yet there are 863 known viruses for it. The entire “Obscurity” argument is an argument of ignorance.

    “content to be second-place”? There’s that ignorance problem again. Have you even been paying attention to the market for the last 11 years?

    “Of course it doesn’t. It gets Mac viruses.”
    Except there are none to get.

    “may offer”
    Key there. Its called “covering your legal ass”.

  10. More than 200% growth in 3 years is obscure? Linux is FAR more obscure (2% of the market) than the Mac has ever been yet there are 863 known viruses for it. The entire “Obscurity” argument is an argument of ignorance.

    That 200% growth figure sounds impressive until you consider that the Mac’s market share is still a piddly 8.8% as of the third quarter of this year according the research firm Gartner. And even then that’s just the U.S. market, worldwide Apple doesn’t even crack the top 5 for market share.

    In comparison, Windows 7 alone, just a week after its release, grabbed almost 4% of the market. I believe that’s worldwide, though the article doesn’t explicitly say that. That’s still half of Apple’s U.S. market share in a week.

    Before Windows 7 was officially released on October 22, the operating system already had a market share figure of around 1.5-2.0%. The operating system was available as a release candidate to “normal” people, but the final code was available to OEMs and MSDN subscribers too. In any case, it was already more popular than Linux, which can’t seem to break out of the round and about 1% share.

    After Windows 7’s general release, its market share figure starting going up, reaching the 3% mark over the weekend. On November 1, Windows 7 had a share of 3.67% according to NetApplications’ figures. Not bad for a brand new operating system release.

    To put it into perspective: In October, Mac OS X (all versions) had a market share figure of 5.27%, whereas Linux sported a 0.96% figure. At this rate, it will only take a few days for Windows 7 to be more popular than Mac OS X. Predictable, yes, but it does illustrate that no matter how much Apple dominates the news, its worldwide market share figures are relatively low – let’s not even get started about Linux.

    So, yeah, in terms of market share the Mac is still pretty obscure and that works to its advantage with regards to things like malware. It’s just not worth the effort to target the platform when there are so many more Windows based PCs out there.

    “content to be second-place”? There’s that ignorance problem again. Have you even been paying attention to the market for the last 11 years?

    Yes, I have. As you can see above. If you have alternative market share figures I’d be happy to hear them. I pulled my data from both Mac oriented and non-Mac oriented sources.

    “Of course it doesn’t. It gets Mac viruses.”
    Except there are none to get.

    Except that there are, which I’ve already shown in previous replies.

    “may offer”
    Key there. Its called “covering your legal ass”.

    If it’s guaranteed not to get viruses, if it’s all but invulnerable, then there’s no need to cover your legal ass. That tells me that Apple’s worried enough about the possibility that they feel their ass may be somewhat exposed.

  11. Les, what do you mean by having your computer “patched”? I have a security program but am not familiar with this term.

  12. Tony, all major OSes these days regularly put out patches to plug up holes in the OS. Microsoft, Apple, and the various Linux distros all have largely automated methods of downloading and installing these patches. An unpatched system is pretty much like leaving your doors unlocked and wide open. The Conflicker worm which ran rampant back in January of this year made use of a known vulnerability which Microsoft had issued a patch for months before hand (October of 2008).

    On Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 the OS can be setup to automatically download updates and install them. You can also go out to Windows Update and download the patches manually. Even if you use automatic updates it’s recommended you visit Windows Update every so often to get patches that aren’t considered critical. Microsoft generally releases patches once a month unless there’s something particularly urgent that needs to get patched right away.

    Having a decent anti-virus program is only half the battle. Keeping your system patched is also very important to keep viruses at bay.

  13. Les, you’re still behind on the news, the MacOS market was 10% in January.
    Windows 7 has been a flop, more people still use Windows NT than 7! 7’s sales haven’t even caught up to the total failure known as Vista. Its years away from catching up with XP. Lets not forget that 7 is little more than a makeover of Vista too.

    “So, yeah, in terms of market share the Mac is still pretty obscure”
    There you go with that “obscurity” bullspit again! You have yet to explain why Linux has 863 viruses and OSX has none. Please try to come up with a valid excuse as to why there are no OSX viruses because the whole “obscurity” simply doesn’t compute with real world data.

    So as a HARDWARE company, Apple is “content” with being second to a SOFTWARE company? Microshaft only makes CDs, they rely on the market to make cheap crap to install it on and make sure its compatible. Apple actually does the R&D, design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and makes sure the OS works exactly with their hardware. Apple could easily release their OS to install on any PC and dominate the market within a few years, but then they would be in exactly the same spot as Microsuck with poor reliability from having to support millions of hardware combinations. As a HARDWARE company, they can tailor the OS to fit exactly with all known hardware configurations.

    Microjunk can spit out 100,000 CD copies of 7 at a few hundred percent profit over production and development costs. Apple sells $1000-$4000 computers at a measly 20% profit (much less for the MacPro).

    Thanks, but I’d much rather buy a well built and reliable Mercedes over a cheap Chrysler.

    “Except that there are, which I’ve already shown in previous replies.”
    I have yet to see one. 18 years of Mac use and zero viruses of any kind proves otherwise as well.
    I don’t “keep it clean” either. Limewire, BitTorrent, application “cracks” and sleazy websites with no form of antivirus software or firewall.
    You can barely even plug in a PC to the internet before getting a virus. Hell, many have come with viruses preinstalled from the factory (Not counting the virus known as “Windows”)!

    “If it’s guaranteed not to get viruses, if it’s all but invulnerable, then there’s no need to cover your legal ass.”
    Nothing in the universe is guaranteed except death. Lawyers are lawyers, if they think there is even the smallest legal threat they will advise that it be covered.

    “Having a decent anti-virus program is only half the battle. Keeping your system patched is also very important to keep viruses at bay.”
    The motto of Windows users across the world.

    Damn, WordPress still sucks. Which code is for quotes?

  14. I’ve downloaded many many patches on my G4 and many of them were security-related. Apple isn’t writing all that code for the fun of it. If they’re patching, there must be holes..

    Do you ever scan your Mac, just in case, Moloch? Just wondering if virus scanners per se even exist for Macs? Like who would make it? Apple? Hmmm.. Or some volunteer UNIX/OSX wiz maybe..

    Me personally, I useMacs *and* PCs.. The mac however *is* prettier, to be sure.. LOL!

  15. Moloch writes…

    Les, you’re still behind on the news, the MacOS market was 10% in January.
    Windows 7 has been a flop, more people still use Windows NT than 7! 7’s sales haven’t even caught up to the total failure known as Vista. Its years away from catching up with XP. Lets not forget that 7 is little more than a makeover of Vista too.

    You’re the one who’s behind, Moloch. Yes, the Mac’s U.S. market share was 10% in January and it has since dropped to 8.8% in September. You don’t have to take my word for it. The article I found that in is from Mac Observer and is from October of this year. But let’s go ahead and give you the 2.2% increase. Wow, 10% of the market, eh? Yeah, that still makes your OS pretty damn obscure.

    Windows 7 grabs half of the Mac’s U.S. market share, worldwide, in less than a week and you think it’s a flop? It hasn’t even been out long enough to be called a flop. The rest of what you say is true, but hardly indicative of it being a flop this early into its release. And even if it does flop it’s already more popular than all versions of OS X. That’s pretty funny with you think about it: Window’s flops are still more popular than Mac’s best performance. That’s gotta sting a little.

    There you go with that “obscurity” bullspit again! You have yet to explain why Linux has 863 viruses and OSX has none. Please try to come up with a valid excuse as to why there are no OSX viruses because the whole “obscurity” simply doesn’t compute with real world data.

    You have to quit living in that fantasy would where you think OSX doesn’t have any viruses. As for why Linux has 863 viruses — and I don’t know if that’s true or not as I’ve not looked into it, but assuming it is — I’d hazard to guess that it’s due to the its popularity as a server platform. Infect a popular web server and you can infect the world. Infect a Mac and, well, you’ve wasted a lot of effort for little gain. (Yes, I’m just poking you with sticks now.)

    So as a HARDWARE company, Apple is “content” with being second to a SOFTWARE company? Microshaft only makes CDs, they rely on the market to make cheap crap to install it on and make sure its compatible. Apple actually does the R&D, design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and makes sure the OS works exactly with their hardware. Apple could easily release their OS to install on any PC and dominate the market within a few years, but then they would be in exactly the same spot as Microsuck with poor reliability from having to support millions of hardware combinations. As a HARDWARE company, they can tailor the OS to fit exactly with all known hardware configurations.

    Microsoft also is in the hardware business, they just don’t put together whole PCs. They don’t have to. Most of what goes into your average Mac is off-the-shelf PC parts, but it is true that Apple designs some really fancy cases and does some amazing engineering in squeezing it all into as small a spot as possible. None of this changes the fact that they’re still a distant second to Microsoft in OS market share and they seem quite content to stay there. You said yourself they could possibly dominate the market if they opened up their OS to more platforms, but they’d rather mark the hardware up anywhere between 100 to 200% over what you’d pay for the same thing on a PC and not take on the challenge of being number 1.

    Yes, opening up OS X to run on as much hardware would create some major support issues and would affect it’s reliability in some situations. It’d also make them a bigger target for malware authors. Just like Microsoft. It also would allow them to potentially capture more of the market if they did it well. For that matter, if they just stopped charging such a ridiculous premium for their hardware they’d bump their market share considerably. Again, the fact that they don’t do either of those things says to me that they’re content with being a distant number 2. Not that there’s anything wrong with that considering they’re making plenty of money in that spot.

    Microjunk can spit out 100,000 CD copies of 7 at a few hundred percent profit over production and development costs. Apple sells $1000-$4000 computers at a measly 20% profit (much less for the MacPro).

    Thanks, but I’d much rather buy a well built and reliable Mercedes over a cheap Chrysler.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your profit margins from, but they seem a tad out of whack. As for taking a Mercedes over a Chrysler, even if we accept the simile as accurate, that doesn’t change the fact that Mercedes aren’t exactly a market leader. Again, nothing wrong with that as they’re making plenty of money there and avoiding some of the same pitfalls being a market leader brings with it.

    I have yet to see one. 18 years of Mac use and zero viruses of any kind proves otherwise as well.
    I don’t “keep it clean” either. Limewire, BitTorrent, application “cracks” and sleazy websites with no form of antivirus software or firewall.
    You can barely even plug in a PC to the internet before getting a virus. Hell, many have come with viruses preinstalled from the factory (Not counting the virus known as “Windows”)!

    That you haven’t seen one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. LegacyABQ just dug up an article from 2006 about one of the first Mac viruses or, more specifically, trojans. Yes, the number of them is amazingly smaller than on Windows. Is OSX harder for malware to penetrate? It most certainly is, but it’s not impossible. That extra effort combined with the Mac’s piddly market share keeps the threat at bay for the most part.

    And, yes, Windows has tons of viruses and can be infected quickly if hooked to the Internet without a firewall in place. That comes with the territory of being Number 1. Everyone wants a piece of you.

    The motto of Windows users across the world.

    The motto of smart computer users across the world. No system is 100% secure.

    Legacy, there’s quite a few virus scanners for the Mac. Both free and commercial:

    The folks at Avast have two Mac anti-virus programs. One just for Mac threats and one that protects against both Mac and PC viruses. I used their free Home edition for the PC until I switched over the Microsoft’s new free offering.

    There’s ProtectMac anti-virus.

    There’s VirusBarrier X5, which gets props for more sci-fi sounding name.

    MacScan isn’t a virus scanner per se, but it is a malware detector and remover similar in nature to Spybot Search & Destroy on Windows.

    There’s a version of the open source Clam AV for the Mac along with a GUI interface.

    There’s iAnti-virus.

    Of course the big players have versions for the Mac including McAfee, Norton, and Kaspersky.

    And in case you’re curious what these programs are protecting against, the folks that make iAntiVirus for the Mac have a list of 113 malware threats their program detects and removes. The thing to keep in mind is that not every threat is a traditional virus that penetrates your system through a hole in the OS and most anti-virus programs protect against more than just viruses. Hell, a sizeable chunk of malware on Windows are trojans that rely on social engineering to be activated.

  16. Wow.. Didn’t realize so many AV apps existed for mac!

    “Hell, a sizeable chunk of malware on Windows are trojans that rely on social engineering to be activated.”

    Indeed, many virii require naive end-users to function (open ports, running executables, etc.) and one can argue that PCs’ wide distribution into the casual user market exposes it to a higher ratio of security-naive endusers..

  17. http://www.neowin.net/news/main/09/06/12/hacked-intosh

    Oh, looky, an article five months old that shows trojans for the Mac…

    Moloch, get off your high horse. Yes, Macs are very resistant to virii simply because of the way the OS works. Yes, it’s a rare event for a mac to get one. No, it’s not impossible, and you really should know that. If you didn’t, well you do now.

    Just because you’ve never caught one doesn’t mean they don’t exist at all. Hell, I bet you’ve never caught a Great White Shark or a Kodiak Bear, and I’m pretty sure both of those exist.

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