It seems that some lawmakers are taking a leaf from the same book that the RIAA and MPAA cartels use. They are trying very hard to make the possession of certain material a criminal offense without the need to prove use or even knowledge of its existence.
The material in question this time is in reality deplorable and disgusting but still merely having it on your computer is not proof of a crime. I know by now you are wondering what I am talking about; well I am talking about Child Pornography. It seems that pedophiles have found a way to force their stash of kiddie porn on to other people?s computers using malicious code.
In fact this has been found to be true in more than one criminal case. The person involved lost their job, had death threats leveled at them and even went into massive debt to defend themselves from the charges. In the end it was found that a virus infected computer was to blame, the system was set to visit up to 40 sites per minute and grab files that were stored on the local computer. The fact that this was a work computer makes it even worse. As it is the responsibility of the company to maintain proper anti-virus and malware protection just as it is the responsibility of the employee not to visit shady sites or do anything that might endanger company equipment.
And that is just one of many cases that are becoming more and more common place. The problem is that not everyone has the money to pay for the kind of computer forensic analysis needed to prove they did not knowingly download or view the material. They can ask the courts to pay for it but often the fees (which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars) are not covered by judges presiding over the cases.
So how is this all a problem? After all, most criminals say they are innocent. I can remember working in the Florida Department of Corrections and hearing that every day from the convicted felons that I was responsible for during my shift. Well the problem is that if you claim innocence and do not have the evidence to back it up. Real pedophiles that claim a virus put it there would be easy to sort out as there will be tell-tale tracks that can be pointed to just like in an investigation with real physical evidence. There will always be tracks and traces. In fact as of this writing there have been no real pedophiles that have used the "virus defense" that have gotten off. There have been multiple innocent people that have been jailed though. Remember even the security experts say there is no such thing as a 100% secure system or operating system. Even with anti-virus protection there are ways that your system can become infected.
No the real problem with this is the "witch hunt" mentality that our legal system is in right now. I am all for finding and prosecuting the people that make and distribute child pornography. Find them and remove them from the world, but when the legal system feels the need to go after the guy at the end of the chain (as with the downloaders of movies and music) it is an indication that they either cannot or are unwilling to find the source of the problem and put in the time and money to remove it. This is like the so called "drug wars" in the US. We see the police arresting the guy looking for a few joints and not spending the time and effort to go after the guy growing and selling it.
What makes this worse is that these laws are being written by technologically incompetent politicians who only want to make a show of doing something about a problem they really care very little about. [until election time that is]. The current state of our laws do nothing to protect or provide for defense against this type of potentially false allegation. Unfortunately with the current crop of lawmakers, special interest groups, and religious crazies all who are out to protect us from ourselves there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. And despite the wording to the opposite you are guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the court if it involves your computer and the files that are on it.