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Deputy Convicted For Spying Neighbor’s Computer

A judge, on April 24, 2007, proved deputy of Monroe County Sheriff guilty of employing spyware for spying someone else's computer.

After a non-jury trial Stephen R. Sirkin, acting state S.C. Justice, ruled that R. Michael Hildreth - the Investigator - was guilty of a serious crime of eavesdropping and official misconduct. The judge, however, acquitted Hildreth of a criminal charge of third-degree computer invasion.

Hildreth was one of the early deputies engaged for full time to the computer crimes division in 1999. Hildreth, 45, may have to face a sentence of up to four years in jail at hearing on June 26, 2007.

According to prosecutors, in 2005, Hildreth sent a special e-mail to James Missel residing in Penfield neighborhood. The e-mail discussed potential job opportunities and had an attachment, which on clicking planted the Blaster spyware program on Missel's PC. This opened way for Hildreth to register every keystroke of Missel, his website activities and conversation in the chat room on his computer.

The investigator allegedly dispatched to his neighbor e-mail containing an attachment that dropped spyware on his PC. spyware is software that monitors user activities on a computer. It also gathers personal information or other secret data even in the absence of user consent. spyware can trace websites the victim visits, the hour of visits and all strokes made on the keyboard.

A running PC has little influence of spyware. Although it doesn't carry viruses but it eats up large volumes of system resources. The damage it causes is on data confidentiality. spyware registers user activity both inside the computer system and on the Internet. Hildreth also sent a computer disc to his neighbor via e-mail. It pretended to be from the potential employer with the same work details. When Missel inserted the disc in his computer's disc drive, it downloaded spyware. That enabled Hildreth to spy into Missel's PC during May 18-Oct 18, 2005.

After Hildreth's arrest, a following investigation yielded no signs of misconduct by Missel, according to Assistant District Attorney Mark Monaghan. Democratandchronicle published this on April 25, 2007.

Related article: Deputy Registrar, GCE Condemns Publishing of Results Online

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