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Oracle sues SAP for website espionage

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Oracle sued SAP, alleging employees with the German firm passed themselves off as Oracle customers so they could engage in the wholesale theft of proprietary Oracle support materials.

Over a five-month period starting last September, the employees allegedly gained access to Oracle's password-protected support site by using the log-in credentials of Oracle customers whose service contracts had, or were about to, expire, according to the complaint (PDF). Once inside, they made more than 10,000 unauthorized downloads of documents relating to hundreds of different Oracle programs. Oracle said there are "indications that this number may go significantly higher if traced further back in time."

"SAP has been engaged in a systematic program of unfair, unlawful, and deceptive business practices that continues to this day," the complaint claims. "Through its illegitimate and illegal business practices, SAP has taken Oracle's Software and Support Materials and apparently used them to insinuate itself into Oracle's customer base, and to attempt to convert these customers to SAP software applications."

A SAP spokeswoman didn't return calls seeking comment.

Oracle said the theft originated at Tomorrow Now, a Texas-based SAP subsidiary that provides technical support for titles in Oracle's PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards product lines. Although the unauthorized access was made by users purporting to be employees at Honeywell, Merck and other Oracle customers, IP addresses showed the users were connected to SAP's network.

Oracle first grew suspicious in November, when it started seeing an unusually high number of downloads for materials relating to PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards products. They quickly spotted anomalies. For instance, one customer account suddenly downloaded an average of 1,800 items per day over a four-day stretch, compared with normal downloads of about 20 per month.

In many cases, accounts engaged in wholesale downloading of materials that had nothing to do with the products the real customer had licensed, Oracle claimed. The credentials SAP allegedly used all came from Oracle customers who were, or were closing to becoming, new customers of Tomorrow Now. Oracle's complaint didn't explain how SAP employees gained the credentials. ®

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