In a unique demonstration as to the importance of protecting against cyberattacks, a convicted murderer in Florida was recently granted a complete retrial after a malware infection wiped out the records pertaining to the case.
Randy Chaviano had been convicted of shooting Charles Acosta during a drug deal gone wrong in 2009, but had appealed the decision. However, the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami-Dade County soon discovered that nearly all of the information pertaining to the original case was nowhere to be found.
As it turned out, not only had a malware infection of the Florida court's network completely erased much of the transcript from the original proceedings, but the information was never properly backed up either. As a result, the court had little option other than to order a complete retrial, effectively overturning the original conviction and life sentence handed down by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David Miller.
“The overturning of a murder conviction always means terrible pain for the victim’s family and frustration for prosecutors and police officers,” Miami-Dade State Attorney’s spokesman Ed Griffith said. “Overturning a murder conviction because of a court reporter’s problem creates a brand new level of pain and frustration.”
In many cases, court stenographers use devices that capture the play-by-play of a trial on both an internal disc and paper. However, court reporter Terlesa Cowart had a habit of forgetting the special reams of paper needed to record her work in hard copy format, her former employer told the Miami Herald.
What's more, Cowart erased the transcription of the trial from stenography machine's internal memory after transferring it to her computer to be backed up. However, the malware infection then destroyed the information on the computer. All that was salvaged were pre-trial notes and closing arguments.
Cowart was fired as a result of incident, the Miami Herald reported.
“Hopefully, I will get to try it again,” defense attorney Israel Encinosa said, according to the newspaper. “I think I can win it this time. It was an injustice that was done. When somebody comes to your house, you should be able to defend yourself.”
Malware is among the most serious and common threats to Internet security. In November, according to a compilation of statistics, a total of nearly 240 million malicious programs were tracked on computers analyzed by a security organization. Another 89 million web-borne infections were prevented.