Sickly health providers, lawyers, and why the Taliban are barred from eBay

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Four more laws

It might be August, but lawyers don't have a silly season. This week has seen three interesting legal cases. First up, the Securities and Exchange Commission took action against a scam that makes up 15 per cent of all spam emails – pump-and-dump emails – and no that has nothing to do with penis enlargement.

Mr and Mrs Stone are accused of buying 288m shares in WebSky in September 2004. This was followed by a flood of spam emails promoting the stock by making false revenue claims. The happy couple then sold their shares at a $1m profit. The SEC is taking civil action to recover the cash. SEC takes on the spammers.

Meanwhile, still in the US, Frank Quattrone – the banker blamed by many for putting the air into the dotcom bubble - will escape further prosecution provided he keeps his nose clean for the next 12 months.

Quattrone says he is keen to restart his business career. Well, we need a poster child for Web 2.0 and our Frank might just be the man. More on Quattrone free to trade.

Back in Blighty, this week saw the first successful prosecution under section three of the Computer Misuse Act. David Lennon pleaded guilty to sending an "email bomb" to an insurance company which had previously sacked him.

He got his revenge by sending the company five million emails – enough to crash their email server. The police reckon the case will set a good precedent for future prosecutions. More here on the kid who crashed an email server.

And this week's final bit of legal news comes from China. Chinese authorities have made their first successful prosecution of a spammer.

Anti-spam laws were only passed in March and some 20 per cent of the world's spam is believed to originate in China. Until recently the country was seen as a safe offshore haven for anyone wanting to run a cheap spam operation. Prosecuting spammers can only help - even if a fine of $630 might not seem like the greatest deterrent.

NHS provider looking peaky

Not a great week for iSoft – the UK government's great hope for sorting out the already unravelling National Programme for IT - the world's largest ever government IT cock-up, sorry "better information for health where and when it's needed".

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) announced a formal investigation into apparent accounting irregularities at the company. This was swiftly followed by iSoft's delayed results announcement, which showed a massive loss of £343.8m. The announcement notes, "material uncertainties that may cast doubt on the Group's ability to continue as a going concern".

The company's shares are trading at about a tenth of their year high and it's looking like it might need a bit of government help to bail it out. Which is fine, because the UK government also needs a bit of help to bail out its attempt to wire up the health service. More on iSoft problems with the FSA, and more here on its financial woes.

While we are on the NHS, one of the ongoing problems with the programme is the failure to train nurses to use the system. With its reliance on agency staff, the NHS is unable to offer even the most basic training. So nurses are trying to teach each other, where they have time, or using only the most basic features of the systems already in place.

Nurses, and other health professionals, are not rejecting the new system – where it even exists – but they haven't been given even the beginnings of the resources needed to use the computers effectively. Royal College of Nursing on IT training.

And the rest of gov IT isn't much better

When considering government IT projects it's usually difficult to decide who is more to blame – greedy suppliers or fickle civil servants who keep changing project outlines halfway through implementation. And that process isn't going to get any easier if it is conducted in secret.

EDS – the giant US supplier – has a £2.3bn contract with the MOD. We can't tell you any more than that because the details are secret. The MOD has made a financial settlement to EDS, but how much it is for is commercially sensitive – it might also be sensitive to the taxpayers who paid it, but that's another question.

Now, we are not saying that this arrangement looks and smells dodgy, we'll leave that to the Treasury Committee, which said back in April that an EDS payment over tax credits had the "appearance of impropriety". A wise man once said: "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." EDS and MOD keep schtum.


In these times of government-induced terror it's good to know the IT community is doing its part to fight the good fight. All too often we hear the internet getting the blame for helping terrorists get information, supplies, or encouragement.

So we are pleased to report the case of Mohammed Hassan who received an email last week from PayPal telling him his account had been frozen because his name appeared on a list of "specially designated and blocked persons".

All he had to do was fax PayPal his passport and some other documents and he'd have his eBay access restored.

Who knew that eBay was the frontline in the War on Terror? It's not a short list either – 252 pages of names and aliases – including no less than six entries for Osama bin Laden – he couldn't even get a MySpace page. More on PayPal versus the Taliban.

In other security news, two people have been arrested over fake holiday websites – a proper old skool scam. The two are accused of setting up websites advertising holidays and then disappearing with people's deposits or even full payment for their holidays. More here.

Oscars for dumb security

Privacy International has relaunched its prizes for damn stupid security procedures and we reckon they'll be overwhelmed with entries. Gongs will be awarded in five categories: the Most Egregiously Stupid Award, Most Inexplicably Stupid Award, Most Annoyingly Stupid Award, Most Flagrantly Intrusive Award and Most Stupidly Counter-Productive Award.

Early contenders include the security guards who complained about the ambulance crew rushing to resuscitate a heart attack victim but failing to sign in at reception. I bet they weren't even wearing visitor badges. More on stoopid security – send them your entries.

Heat gets to Iberian Bureau

We're starting to worry about the Iberian Bureau – our Spanish outpost is often the source of the odder stories on the Reg, but this week we think the sun might be getting to them. Highlights include: Plane passenger tells security penis pump is bomb, China bans strippers at funerals, and cows have regional accents.

Hardware news

A traditionally quiet time for announcements, but IBM and Sun have broken the news drought. IBM has rejigged its storage kit – high-end DS 8000 range gets two new models for mainframes and serious enterprise disaster recovery.

Big Blue's also announced mid-range storage kit, which is the fruit of its relationship with NetApp. More here.

Sun is celebrating after managing a second quarter of increased server sales. The last time things looked so good grown-ups were riding micro-scooters. Figures from Gartner reveal Sun increased server sales by 14 per cent - $1.6bn in sales.

If you don't believe Gartner then consider IDC – it put Sun's increase at 16 per cent year on year. IBM remains top dog, but saw sales fall two per cent. More on Sun's sunny server sales.

JCB flies flag for British automotive engineering

It was a great week for British engineering. You might have heard of the demise of British car design and manufacturing, but you were forgetting JCB. It's more than a catchy song – it's 60 years of British industry, it's an icon, and now it's a record breaker.

A vehicle powered by two digger engines, yes really, has broken the land speed record for a diesel-powered vehicle. In fact, it broke the record twice. More here.


A selection of shorties – Women make better bosses, says survey commissioned by a woman boss. Thomson makes computer to write news stories – it's like a journalist without a liver, and TUC boss calls for ethical offshoring.

And, finally, Register code monkeys have spent the summer rebuilding our search engine. So please have a look here for details and have a play around with it. It's a work in progress, so let us know what you think.

That's it from us – have a lovely long weekend and we'll be back next week. ®

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