September 8, 2006 10:00 AM PDT

Week in review: HP's Big Brotherly way

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Is spying on its board of directors and journalists the new HP way?

In an attempt to find the source of a news media leak, Hewlett-Packard launched an investigation of its own board of directors that included accessing their personal phone records and those of several journalists. The probe led to one director resigning and another not being renominated to the position.

On Jan. 23, CNET News.com reported that HP's directors and CEO Mark Hurd met for several days at a posh resort to craft HP's long-term strategy. The article apparently angered HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, who authorized an investigation to determine the story's source.

A private investigator hired by HP allegedly hired a data broker to gather information on telephone calls made and received by the directors and nine journalists, including News.com's Dawn Kawamoto and Tom Krazit. The personal phone records of a reporter for The Wall Street Journal also were among those accessed.

California's attorney general and federal investigators are investigating the possible use of "pretexting" in the investigation. Pretexting is the practice of obtaining phone records through deceptive means.

The company admitted in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the controversial data-gathering technique was used in the company's investigation. HP said that "no recording or eavesdropping" had occurred but acknowledged pretexting had been used to gather information on phone records.

The revelations raised the ire of News.com readers, many of whom called for heavy penalties against HP and its private investigator. Some, however, were dismayed that their own telephone company may share some of the blame.

"I hate to think my phone company might give out my records to some stranger because he says he's me (honest)," wrote one reader to News.com's TalkBack forum. "How can they not be fined?" So what did HP do? What is the law? What penalties might HP face? Click here for information explaining the current situation.

On the Vista
Microsoft announced retail pricing for Vista, its long-delayed Windows update, and said it will broaden testing to more than 5 million people.

Pricing for full retail versions of the software: Windows Vista Ultimate, $399; Windows Vista Business, $299; Windows Vista Home Premium, $239; and Windows Vista Home Basic, $199.

Upgrades from Windows XP are priced as follows: Windows Vista Ultimate, $259; Windows Vista Business, $199; Windows Vista Home Premium, $159; and Windows Vista Home Basic, $99.

Thanks to new directory software, Vista could put a greater load on Internet servers. But experts disagree over whether we're headed for a prime-time traffic jam or insignificant slowdown.

Microsoft's launch of Windows Vista could slow down or stall traffic on the Net, said Paul Mockapetris, who is widely credited with inventing the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS). Mockapetris believes Vista's introduction will cause a surge in DNS traffic because the operating system supports two versions of the Internet Protocol, a technology standard used to send information over computer networks.

Vista may cause an increase in DNS traffic, but not to the extent predicted by Mockapetris, Microsoft countered in a statement provided to News.com last week. Other experts support Microsoft on this issue and suggest Mockapetris' predictions are related to his role at Nominum, the vendor of DNS products where he is chief scientist.

Waiting on the line
T-Mobile USA is preparing to launch a service this month that will allow people talking on their cell phones to seamlessly switch between T-Mobile's cellular network and their home Wi-Fi networks.

T-Mobile's new service, which will be the first of its kind in the United States, will be a test case for other operators also looking to deploy similar services. Sprint Nextel, through its joint venture with four major cable companies, is also looking into developing a similar service. And Cingular is testing such a service in its labs.

Carriers in Europe have already said they will launch their services later this year, charging between 10 and 15 euros per month for unlimited calling from dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular phones used in home networks. But in the United States, where voice minutes are sold in buckets, Wi-Fi/cellular services could be a harder sell.

Texas Instruments, PacketVideo and S3 are showing off a cell phone that can record incoming television shows the same way that TiVo boxes do at home. The phone has two channels, so consumers can watch a program at the same time as they record something else for later viewing. The phone also sports a picture-within-picture option, another first for TV cell phones, according to Texas Instruments.

Cell phone TVs are already available in South Korea and Japan. In the latest versions, programs and videos come directly to phones and handhelds via digital TV broadcasting services and a TV tuner. Program feeds do not travel over the cellular networks, which in the early days of TV cell phones often resulted in hefty phone bills.

Also of note
Matsushita, better-known by its Panasonic brand name, launched its own battery recall, this one involving 6,000 notebook batteries sold in Japan...Intel announced plans to lay off thousands of workers over the next year after conducting a strategic review designed to prepare the company for life with a smaller share of the chip market...Microsoft plans to release a "critical" security update for Office next week, one of three bulletins it will distribute as part of its monthly patch cycle...Apple Computer's iMac desktops are now equipped with Intel's new Core 2 Duo processors.

See more CNET content tagged:
pretexting, domain name, journalist, DNS, Microsoft Windows Vista Business

1 comment

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Reverse espionage
I'm just curious how any corporation could be sanctioned to snoop on personal phone records of anyone OUTSIDE the corporate setting.

IMHO there should be multiple arrests - from the CEO of HP and the voting members that authorized this action, to the contracted company that carried out the investigation.

Corporations are NOT above the U.S. constitution regardless of whatever document might have been signed by the employees.
Posted by Inetsec (40 comments )
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