22nd > September > 2004 Archive

250 'jobs-from-India' earmarked for Belfast

Some 250 new jobs are to be created in Northern Ireland after an Indian IT company agreed to expand its operation in Belfast. In a reversal of the recent "jobs-to-India" trend, HCL BPO is beefing up its call centre in Belfast to take-on new business in Europe and the UK as it provides contact services for companies in the retail, banking and commercial sectors. Development agency Invest NI is backing the jobs with more than £900,000 in grants as part of the £1.9m investment in the new centre. Said Economy Minister Barry Gardiner: "This investment is especially significant as it reverses the trend. Many similar call centres have relocated outside Northern Ireland. Here we have a leading company from India investing in Northern Ireland. HCL's global strategy is to increase its business in Europe and the US." HCL employs more than 13,000 people around the world - including a software development operation in England - and has sales in excess of $1bn (£560m). The news comes as the Public & Commercial Services (PCS) union continues to fight plans to export 250 government jobs to India. Stepping up its campaign to prevent jobs from the National Savings Agency in Blackpool, Durham and Glasgow being shunted to India, the union says that government coffers will lose out on £25m in lost tax and extra benefit payments. ® Related stories Call centres are a nightmare National Savings jobs to India to cost UK £25m, says union Information Commissioner to rule on Lloyds TSB's jobs-to-India Siemens faces outsource protest strike BT replaces 'red bill' with Indian call centre nag IBM offshores 500 UK jobs to India
Tim Richardson, 22 Sep 2004

Bulldog blames 'admin error' for poor service

Bulldog is halting the provisioning of some new broadband punters in a bid to ease the problems that have plagued the ISP for weeks. In a grovelling statement designed to explain why "all aspects of our customer service have fallen well below the standards you and we demand" Bulldog blames an "administrative error" for delaying the implementation of new capacity for its network. Snag is, it's unclear from Bulldog's statement exactly who is to blame - the ISP or its supplier BT. No one at Bulldog was available to shed any light on this question at the time of writing. BT is currently checking to see if it was responsible for the cock-up. Either way, as a result of the "error", Bulldog has suspended "provisioning of new customers with IPStream-based services until the new capacity is in place". And it's expanded it tech support numbers so that hacked off punters don't have to wait for hours to speak to someone when their service is running at a crawl. Bulldog's statement - complete with all the fluff and nonsense associated with a company that "shares [its] customers frustration at the difficulties in reaching us" - is below. "Bulldog strives to provide high-speed and secure services to all of its customers. This focus on high speed and high quality has meant that the numbers of people choosing Bulldog have grown very rapidly in recent months. Recently that has meant that all aspects of our customer service have fallen well below the standards you and we demand. We share our customers' frustration at the difficulties in reaching us, and would like to apologise. "To support our rapid growth, Bulldog ordered additional IPStream capacity from BT several months ago to double network capacity and maintain the high network performance which has been the foundation of its reputation. "Unfortunately, an administrative error meant that capacity Bulldog had anticipated being implemented in late August has been delayed. BT is committed to have this additional capacity provided to Bulldog no later than 4 October. "In the intervening time, some customers whose services are based on IPStream have been experiencing speeds slower than the very high speeds that they have come to expect. Customers whose services are based on DataStream or on Bulldog’s own LLU network are unaffected. "As a result of the IPStream delay, enquiries to Bulldog's customer service team have increased. To meet this additional demand Bulldog has trebled its customer service and technical support teams over the last two months. An additional 30 customer services staff begin working on 22 September. "To accommodate the expanded teams, Bulldog has taken extra office space but this caused short-term disruption to the phone system, with customers waiting for long periods and experiencing dropped calls. These issues have now been resolved. "Similar pressure led to the backlog of email enquiries which we have greatly reduced and will have cleared completely by 1 October. "Bulldog has suspended provisioning of new customers with IPStream-based services until the new capacity is in place, both to ensure that the quality of service for existing customers is maintained, and to ensure that new customers get the high quality of service that Bulldog expects to provide. "Until recently our reputation for customer service was a source of pride for us and envy for our competitors. We intend to win it back." ® Related stories ISPA rejects calls to strip Bulldog of award Hundreds of Bulldog users without broadband - again Botched migration hits Bulldog users
Tim Richardson, 22 Sep 2004
Cat 5 cable

FalconStor wants to WORM your disk arrays

We've had optical WORMs and tape WORMs, and now it's hard drives, as FalconStor adds write-once capabilities to its IPStor storage management and virtualisation software. This WORMLock option is the key addition to IPStor v4.5, announced this week. The idea is that enterprises will use IPStor to manage tiers of storage, one of which is bulk hard disk used as a content store for regulatory compliance and long-term archiving. "WORM volumes are similar to NAS volumes but with additional properties to do with data retention," says John Lallier, FalconStor's technology veep. These could include policies to delete data at end of life, for example, as well as replicating or mirroring it in the meantime. "You can't change the retention policy - well, you can lengthen it, but not shorten it," Lallier says. "You could destroy the data too, but you can't alter it and pass it off as the original." IPStor can manage both networked and direct-attached storage, provisioning it across iSCSI and Fibre Channel. The new version also adds a number of features to do with data protection and NAS, including support for Samba v3.0 and integration with Microsoft Active Directory and Novell eDirectory. "It's storage middleware," says Lallier. "We provide no hardware, so it is hardware-agnostic and in many cases operating system-agnostic too." FalconStor already supports Intel Itanium and Sun 64-bit hardware, and is working on 64-bit support for AMD Opteron next, with Intel's extended IA-64 processors to follow. "We support Itanium for a Fibre Channel host but haven't seen much call for the agents - I don't know if it's used much outside labs doing 64-bit research," Lallier says. "Opteron and extended-Intel will give much the same benefit, but at a lower box price, and as the standard platform gets more powerful, our software get more powerful. "AMD now leads in this area, I think it took advantage of Intel's Itanium decision - by and large, Itanium was too big a jump. The AMD HyperTransport architecture gives access to greater memory and storage capacity, so Sun E10000-level features can now be done with simple Linux-based systems. I'm not writing Intel off though - if anyone can change direction, Intel can." He adds that FalconStor will show IPStor 4.5 at next month's Storage Expo in London. ® Related stories EMC taps FalconStor for tape emulation StorageTek signs FalconStor for data pooling FalconStor changes tack with IPStor v4
Bryan Betts, 22 Sep 2004

Uncle Sam demands all air travel records

The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has demanded the passenger records of all domestic flights during the month of June, 2004, so that it can test its new "CAPPS Lite" data mining operation before putting it into production, the Associated Press reports. Passengers' names will be checked against secret bad-guy lists maintained by the FBI. The new scheme, dubbed "Secure Flight" for that warm and fuzzy feeling, replaces the much-despised CAPPS-II data mining regime. CAPPS-II was designed to check passenger names through commercial databases. After some fuzzy math, each passenger was to have been assigned a personal "risk level", and put through the appropriate amount of extra interrogation, strip searching, and tissue sampling. The CAPPS-II scheme was recently abandoned because of bad press and numerous technological snafus. The new system differs (we are told) by using only super secret lists from the crack terrorist busters at the FBI. Because of the necessary secrecy, airlines will not have access to the information. Instead, the airlines will surrender their customers' data to TSA, which will do the comparisons and decide whether one gets to fly or not. Airlines will be ordered to surrender passenger name records (PNRs), which can contain a great deal of information, depending on local regulations. According to wire reports, the data can include the passenger's name, address, telephone number, flight numbers, point of origin, destinations, flight times, and form of payment. It can also include credit card numbers, meal requests, hotel itinerary, traveling companions, the travel agency used, and comments from airline employees indicating whether a passenger likes to make cynical remarks to personnel who have nothing but public safety at heart. Note that a passenger's itinerary can include information about one's accommodations, and the details of companions with whom one might share said accommodations. While DHS chirps optimistically about the new scheme's improvements in privacy protection, it has not actually said that there will be some automated mechanism for scrubbing such deeply personal data from the records that it demands. The new system will suffer from the same problems plaguing CAPPS-II: of producing false-positive matches, and the difficulty of getting oneself off a terror list that one is not even permitted to know exists, and that bureaucrats will almost certainly refuse to confirm or deny exists. Because the airlines will not be involved, any possible resolution of these maddening difficulties will be even farther removed from the passenger's grasp. There will also be considerable mission creep, we are told. It's rare when a paranoid bureaucracy actually confesses this up front, but certainly refreshing. TSA also says it will test a companion system to compare passenger names with information from commercial databases, much as CAPPS-II was to do, in order to see if passenger records can be used to detect the outrage du jour, identity theft. Ten years ago, it would have been deadbeat dads; five years ago it would have been online pedophiles. But since indignation over these groups has faded recently, it's no surprise that TSA should try to sneak its pre-planned mission creep in under the latest hot-button source of public anxiety. With that and the terrorists, it's got all its bases covered. ® Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a comprehensive guide to system hardening, malware protection, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux. Related stories Database snafu puts US Senator on terror watch list Airport security failures justify snoop system Ministers thwart MEPs, OK EU-US airline data deal American Airlines data used to test passenger snoop system The wrong stuff: what it takes to be a TSA terror suspect Campaigners fight biometric passports Data on 10m Northwest fliers handed to NASA for testing US using EU airline data to test CAPPS II snoop system Commission agrees US access to EU citizen personal data Georgia runs from the MATRIX Congress threatens two hi-tech Gestapo programs
Thomas C Greene, 22 Sep 2004

Click here to become infected

Users should be wary of pressing the 'click here to remove' link on spam messages because it serves to confirm to spammers that junk mail messages are being read. Such email addresses can be sold at a premium to other spammers. That's reason enough to simply delete spam messages, but a junk mail message doing the rounds today provides an even more compelling reason. Selecting the 'click here to remove' link on messages blocked by MessageLabs today triggers an attempt to load malicious code onto potentially vulnerable Windows PC. MessageLabs is blocking spam linking to the domains www. xcelent.biz (space deliberately inserted) which, if users click on the remove link and scroll down the page triggers a DragDrop JavaScript exploit. This uses an IE bug to download and run an EXE file, currently been analysed by MessageLabs. Alex Shipp of MessageLabs writes: "I have not finished analysing the EXE currently hosted (currently called windows-update.exe), but the spammers can change this at any time by uploading a new Trojan. Typically, your machine may be turned into an open proxy, have passwords extracted, and keyloggers installed. "So not only do you confirm your email address to the spammers, you also get to host their next spam run, and get your bank account cleaned out," he adds. The US's CAN-SPAM Act requires junk mailers to put an opt-out link on their wares. It comes as little surprise that this feature is been taken advantage of in a social engineering exploit; but it does illustrate the security problems of the opt-out approach that were always apparent to security experts - and ignored by legislators. ® Related stories Virus writers deploy bulk mail software Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs Porn diallers and Trojans the new face of malicious code CAN-SPAM means we can spam Spammers not deterred by Can Spam Act
John Leyden, 22 Sep 2004

Mexican Catholics smite mobiles

Those readers who have ever sat in the quiet carriage of the Heathrow Express angrily eyeing the "please turn off your phone" sign while suits shout into their 3G handsets regardless will applaud the steps which four churches in Mexico have taken to ensure a respectful silence during mass. Indeed, although it would seem to be a matter of common sense to depower your phone before entering the House of God, the authorities have been obliged to deploy Israeli jamming kit to enforce the Holy hush. Bulmaro Carranza, caretaker of the Monterrey's Sacred Heart church, told Reuters: "Before we had the system, it was very uncomfortable hearing calls coming in during the celebration of mass. But now it's 95 per cent quiet." What constitutes the other five per cent of noise pollution is not noted, but we suspect that it is the faint "tsssk-tsssk-tsssk-tsssk" radiating from iPod headphones as the faithful enjoy the latest drum'n'bass downloads during a lull in the ecclesiastical action. The jamming equipment - which consists of a couple of small boxes, one fixed behind the altar and one by the front door - is supplied by Tel Aviv-based Netline Communication Technologies. Anyone entering the building will find his mobe well and truly smitten, and displaying a "no signal" message. Carranza reckons that the Sacred Heart was the first church in Mexico to employ cutting-edge phone jamming gear, and says that it has met with an enthusiastic response from other places of worship keen to strike warbling mobes dumb. ® Related stories UK firms tout camera phone blinding tech Cellphone jamming scam exposed Magnetic wood - the new mobile phone squelcher
Lester Haines, 22 Sep 2004

Namesco buys Simply.com

UK web host outfit Namesco Limited (www.names.co.uk) has snapped up Simply.com Limited for £2.15m in an all cash deal. The merger effectively doubles the size of Namesco, which will now manage more than 170,000 domain names. Based in Malvern, Worcestershire, Simply.com is just ten miles from Namesco's offices in Worcester. The combined group employs around 30 people. Simply.com has been in business since 1998 and has 32,000 active customers, 91,000 domain names and some 9,600 hosted accounts. Two weeks ago AIM-listed Iomart Group plc bought host outfit Easyspace Ltd for £10.5m. Over the last year or so Iomart has also bought Internetters and NicNames. ® Related stories Iomart swallows Easyspace for £10.5m Pipex swallows Nildram Pipex acquires Host Europe for £31m
Tim Richardson, 22 Sep 2004

PeopleSoft goes a bundle on IBM

PeopleSoft will include free copies of IBM's WebSphere middleware products with every set of its applications sold. Both companies will market the joint products and will collaborate to improve future interoperability. The firms are opening a "business process interoperability lab" to integrate and test applications, and will spend $1bn on the partnership over the next five years. The two will jointly develop software aimed at three specific industries: financial services, insurance and telecoms. Craig Conway, chief executive and president of PeopleSoft, said: "This is the largest and most significant agreement that PeopleSoft and IBM have ever made." Some observers see the deal as another way for PeopleSoft to protect itself from the unwelcome attentions of Larry Ellison's Oracle.This week PeopleSoft announced large increases in severance pay for its employees in the event of a takeover. By aligning its products more closely with those of IBM, it could erect another defence against an Oracle takeover. Press release here. ® Related stories Peoplesoft staff get golden goodbye Oracle wins US antitrust suit Peoplesoft profits down
John Oates, 22 Sep 2004

Germans develop bad breath-detecting mobe

Here's something for any reader who has just woken up after a particularly taxing late-night "business meeting" with a head like a breeze block and a mouth like a camel's armpit - a mobile phone which tells you when your breath is a little off colour. Yup, a Siemens' team in Munich is developing a mobe with a miniature chip which can detect when it's time to uncap the mouth wash. A spokeswoman for presumably fragrant German outfit told Reuters: "It examines the air in the immediate vicinity for anything from bad breath and alcohol to atmospheric gas levels." Naturally, pundits are already speculating that the technology could one day be used to advise giddy users when they are over the drink-drive limit and act accordingly. In the meantime, punters can look forward to their drunken attempts to call a minicab being met with a "Bloody hell your breath stinks! Do us all a favour and buy some extra-strong mints" from the cutting-edge communications device. ® Related stories Deafening phone - Siemens issues health warning Mobile phones rot your balls Muggers refuse to nick crap mobile phone Mobile phones drive us mental: official
Lester Haines, 22 Sep 2004

Voda plays Santa with 3G bonanza

Vodafone is putting its substantial weight behind a 3G push by offering ten handsets in the run up to Christmas. From November the firm will sell handsets from manufacturers including Samsung, Sharp, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, NEC and Nokia. They will be available in all territories except Australia and New Zealand. The firm will be taking special interest in Japan where it has been losing customers to rival operators KDDI and DoCoMo. Seven handsets will be available in Japan and nine models in Europe. The range includes what the company claims is Europe's first two mega pixel camera phone, the Sharp 902. Customers can use the phones in Europe and Japan on Vodafone's W-CDMA network. The range comprises the Sharp 802 and 902, the Motorola E1000, V980 and C980, NEC's 802N, the Sony Ericsson V800, Nokia 6630, and the Z110V and Z107V models from Samsung. Until now Vodafone has focused its marketing muscle on flogging its 3G datacard. T-Mobile says it will offer four 3G handsets by Christmas and Orange has promised "several" handsets. More here. ® Related stories Mac users get Vodafone 3G data access Vodafone seeks punters for UK consumer 3G trial Vodafone: thin in Japan
John Oates, 22 Sep 2004

NASA pumps $400m into nuclear space probe

NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman a $400m contract to co-design the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (Jimo) space probe - slated for a rendevouz with Jovian moons Callisto, Europa and Ganymede some time after 2012. Jimo's mission is to orbit the three satellites for a detailed analysis of each, and in particular investigate the possibility that they have liquid water beneath their frozen surfaces. As is the local custom, scientists believe that such oceans - if present - might harbour primitive life. The Jimo project has generated a certain amount of controversy due to its uranium-fuelled nuclear fission reactor - which creates electricity to drive the "nuclear electric propulsion (NEP)" system. In simple terms, NEP uses the electricity produced by the reactor to ionise propellant atoms which can then be ejected at high velocity from the vehicle's propulsion system by magnetic or electrified grids. NASA has already proven this "ion drive" technology aboard Deep Space 1, although electricity for the thrusters was in that case provided by solar panels. Despite safety concerns, NASA reckons that "Space Fission Reactor Power Systems" are the way to go, because they "propel spacecraft directly to the planets in ways not possible today, and perform orbital maneuvers once there; and provide ample electrical power to operate advanced scientific instrument suites that have higher power requirements than instruments used at present". Jimo's nuclear reactor will be provided by the US Department of Energy's Office of Naval Reactors. Northrop Grumman is involved purely in the vehicle design side, and saw off Boeing and Lockheed Martin to secure the contract. ® Related stories Scientists ponder sluggish Pioneers Mercury mission blasts into solar orbit ESA on mission to surf gravity's waves
Lester Haines, 22 Sep 2004
For Sale sign detail

AMD and IBM spread the love

AMD and IBM are extending a deal which has seen them co-operating on chip-making technology since 2002. The deal was due to end next year it will now run until December 2008. AMD will pay IBM up to $280m for access to its expertise because it provides the bulk of the research. The two will work together to find better, cheaper ways to make processors. Setting up a chip-making plant is hugely expensive - so the cost share will help the duo keep up with Intel in the capex stakes. The original deal said the two would work together to deliver "industry-leading performance... while reducing the rapidly escalating cost of technology development". It concentrated on getting better energy-saving technology onto processors. The agreement also allows AMD to take IBM technology to other factories for actual manufacture. At the moment AMD makes all its own chips. Separately, AMD has poached 60 chip engineers from Sun Microsystems to set up a chip design centre in Boston. This gives it a total of five design teams, according to ZDNet , which notes the chipmaker can now design two products at once. ® Related stories AMD goes mobile at 90nm with Athlon 3000+ AMD sneaks out Sempron 3000+ AMD grabs Intel market share in desktop arena
John Oates, 22 Sep 2004

Ofcom must answer broadband price hike charges - MP

Pressure is growing on industry regulator Ofcom over concerns that it "may have misjudged the market implications" of a recent decision that threatens to force dozens of small ISPs out of business. Sir George Young, Tory MP for North West Hampshire, is calling on Ofcom to explain why the cost of wholesale xDSL broadband is to increase for small ISPs potentially forcing them out of business. His intervention comes amid concerns that Ofcom hasn't properly thought through proposals intended to increase competition in the broadband sector, but which have the opposite effect. Said Sir George: "I've written twice now to Ofcom about concerns raised with me by Internet Service Providers and their representatives, asking for an early response to what seems to be a rather time sensitive situation. "Having now had an opportunity to hear the views of BT as well as their ISP customers and others there does appear to be a prima facie case suggesting that Ofcom may have misjudged the market implications of its decision on an obscure bit of jargon called the 'margin squeeze test' and related rulings as applied to BT's pricing and product packaging in the wholesale ADSL market. "What's happened could have a dire effect on small service providers and their customers - including in particular small firms that have built a high dependence on the web and the Internet into their business activities. Given that (according to BT) it is Ofcom's regulatory position that has led to the price and product changes...I now regard it as very urgent to have a clear statement from Ofcom that recognises the issues brought forward by ISPs and their representative organisations and explains how the margin squeeze test and other relevant decisions and rulings are intended to benefit the industry and its customers." No one from Ofcom was available for comment at the time of writing. ® Related stories New e-minister urged to intervene in broadband row PlusNet throws broadband 'lifeline' to ISPs BT examines broadband price cuts 'Large number' of ISPs face ruin - UKIF ISPs tackle Ofcom over BT broadband price hike 70 UK ISPs in anti-BT uprising
Tim Richardson, 22 Sep 2004

Ireland bars South Pacific in rogue dialler crackdown

Ireland is to block direct dialling to 13 countries, mostly in the South Pacific, to combat the growing menace of rogue autodiallers. The ban comes into force on 4 October. Rogue diallers change the number used in dial-up connections to an expensive international number. Sometimes users are offered access to porn sites in return for changing their internet access numbers to whatturns out be premium rate or international numbers. More often changes in dial-up numbers are carried out surreptitiously using malicious code. Consumers typically realise that their internet dial-up settings have been changed only when they receive a phone bill with high call charges to international destinations. ComReg, Ireland's phone regulator, said that more than 300 people have contacted it this year, after falling victim to rogue diallers. The amounts lost ranged from €20 to €2,000. In response, it has told ISPs and service providers to block direct dial calls to the Cook Islands, Comoros, Diego Garcia, Kiribati, Mauritania, Norfolk Island, Nauru, Sao Tome and Principe, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, and French Polynesia. Specific phone numbers can be unblocked at the request of subscribers. ComReg also asked ISPs to notify customers about autodialler scams and to recommend protective measures - such as using up-to-date anti-virus software. ComReg chairman John Doherty said: "Comreg has a statutory duty to protect consumers. The measures we are taking are extraordinary ones but are necessary to provide consumers with the protection they need at this time. We will keep the process we are now directing under close review and will intervene again if the need arises." Dodgy text messages and rogue Internet diallers accounted for two-thirds of all complaints received by UK premium rate regulator ICSTIS last year. ® Related stories Porn dialler fraudsters find lucrative loophole UK premium rate phone complaints rocket MPs slam premium-rate 'criminal scams' Italian charged in porn dialler virus scam Porn diallers and Trojans the new face of malicious code External Links ComReg policy statement of rogue diallers (PDF)
John Leyden, 22 Sep 2004

Nintendo aims high with low-cost console

Nintendo hopes to hold its advantage over Sony in the handheld game console market, by selling its DS model for half the price of the new PlayStation Portable. The console will cost only $150, which is less than half the price that Sony is expected to charge for its PSP. Nintendo also intends releasing the DS in November, to take advantage of the US Christmas market. The DS is a dual-screened system, with one screen facilitating touch input using either a stylus or an on-screen keyboard. Nintendo's new device facilitates multiple players, by allowing users to connect to each other across the wired Internet or using Wi-Fi. The console can sense other consoles in near proximity, which not only facilitates impromptu games, but also provides the possibility of online conversation. This is because the new unit includes PictoChat, which can be used to write messages with an on-screen keyboard or the stylus. Sony's PlayStation Portable also includes novel features to capture the hearts and minds of gaming enthusiasts. The PSP will come with stereo sound and a 4.5-inch colour LCD screen which can play music and movies. PSP games will be delivered on new high-capacity UMD optical discs created especially for the unit. These disks are about half the size of typical CDs or DVDs, but hold 1.8GB of data. Sony also said that with a custom-made processor, built on 90-nanometre technology, the new handheld will have computing power equal to a full-sized PlayStation. Sony says it will begin selling the PSP in Japan this year, with a US launch next year. The price tag has not been published yet, but it's predicted to be in the region of $299. Nintendo is the top seller in the $4bn market for handheld game devices and software and has sold almost 170 million units in the past 15 years. Sony and Nokia's N-Gage consoles, however, are attempting to take away some of Nintendo's market by introducing new features and encouraging adults to buy the units. © ENN Related stories Review: Tapwave Zodiac 2 Gizmondo UK debut set for 29 October Nokia ships 1m N-Gage consoles Sony licenses VIA tech for PSP Sony talks up PlayStation Portable's chips
ElectricNews.net, 22 Sep 2004

London boozers offer beer via SMS

Tomorrow sees the launch of perhaps the greatest use yet discovered for SMS - after sending a text message to sack all your staff, naturally - when 11 Corney & Barrow boozers across London roll out a mobe drinks voucher system. The service allows your mates to log onto buymeabeer.com, select a beverage, enter your mobile number and pay for your tipple by credit card. You then get an SMS "drinks voucher" which bar staff will redeem upon presentation of your phone. Corney & Barrow marketing and purchasing director Ed Gardner reckons: “What separates the BuyMeaBeer.com service from other SMS drinks promotions is the unique, personal touch. The message received on a friend’s or colleague’s phone is clearly a thank you direct from someone they know, and not an anonymous automated bulk send message from a mobile mailing list.” The outfit running the back end is Eagle Eye Technology, and director Stephen Rothwell adds: “You know the way it is. You’re grateful to a friend or colleague for helping you out – moving house, mending the car, meeting a deadline – you offer your thanks and they throw out that eternal line: ‘Just buy me a beer!’ But then, somehow, you never quite get round to it." We at El Reg applaud this initiative - subject to field testing - and hope that the scheme can be extended nationwide. At the same time, we hope that Buymeabeer.com also extends its current range. While we're sure that a bottle of Perrier Jouet at £34.95 or a refreshing Kirin beer at a cool £3 a pop might be just the trick for the dotcom yuppie power drinker, we can't help feeling that "as much Fosters as you can drink before 8pm" for a fiver and a proper selection of Pringles and salted peanuts would do much to sell the SMS pint to the common-or-garden pubgoer. ® Related stories Team moots car alerts via SMS Singaporean sets SMS world speed record Brits are text maniacs Text junkies seek SMS detox
Lester Haines, 22 Sep 2004

Google Germany wins Adwords trademark fight

Google has won the first stage of its legal battle to defend itself against accusations of trademark infringement. A court in Germany has ruled against Metaspinner Media, which was seeking to stop the search engine from selling adverts relating to its trademarks. Metaspinner Media started court action against Google Deutschland in May. Metaspinner accused Google of selling ads triggered by searches for its online price comparison software "Preispiraten" or price pirate. Google has already faced similar legal action in France and the US. Petra Bosback, Metaspinner Media's lawyer, told AP her client had lost the case but refused further comment. She said it would take weeks to analyse the decision. ® Related stories Google goes GOOG at $85 a share Google Germany faces Adwords trademark fight Google! Licenses! Yahoo's! Secret! Sauce!
John Oates, 22 Sep 2004

Women, and the future of IT

InterviewInterview There is a revolution coming in computing, and women will lead it. So says Professor Wendy Hall, computer scientist, advisor to the government, and president of the British Computer Society. She's talking to us today about why there are so few women in IT, why it matters, and what can be done to change things. Computer science grew out of mathematics, and there were similar proportion of women in both the departments. In the early days of the subject, there were plenty of women working in industry and in academia, Hall says. But in the mid-eighties, the personal computer arrived, and with that, the culture changed beyond recognition. "It became about playing and coding war games," she explains. "This really turned women off the subject, and we've never really recovered." IT departments became very male places, and the techies traded acronyms and buzzwords to determine their position in the hierarchy. "I believe that this is now so culturally ingrained that throwing money at it won't change anything in the short term. You could discriminate: say everyone woman who applied for a computing related course could study for free, for example, but I don't know how successful that would be." Instead, Hall suggests, the place to attack the problem is at the start of adolescence. "This is when the gender divide really sets in," she says. "But there is no point painting these girls a picture of life as a sysadmin. Quite apart from it not being very exciting, that is the industry as it is now, not as it will be in ten years when they join the workforce." She reminds us that ten years ago, the internet hadn't really happened. Anyone transported from 1994 to the present day would probably be surprised by what they would find here. There is no reason to think that the transformation of the industry over the next ten years will be any less dramatic. "We are moving towards a situation where we'll have zillions of processors all interconnected," she says. "It'll be a very large, very complex system, and we need to learn how to make something that complex adaptive, robust and flexible. Nature is very good at complex systems, and that is where we have to take our cue." There is a lot of this about in the industry. BT has researchers looking at how fruit flies can help us to develop smarter wireless networks; others are trying to make the way we interact with technology more human, and Microsoft has multidisciplinary teams at its Cambridge research facility looking at similar areas. Other research is even more intriguing - some researchers are letting circuitry design itself, using evolutionary principles, for instance. Hall paints a picture of a world where everything is smaller and cleverer, or at least less stupid. Systems will be more tailored than they are now, technology will be hidden behind a smarter interface, and we'll have software agents that will negotiate services for us. The sorts of skills required to deal with this brave new world with be the ones women have in abundance, and the subjects that attract more women will be the ones that become more important. Hall predicts that in the next five years, there will be computer science courses that require applicants to have a biology A-Level. Traditionally women-dominated subjects, such as psychology and sociology, will grow in importance too, as the industry becomes more about personal support than systems support. "The nature of the industry is going to change. So we need to look at that and say to these young women, 'Here is an intellectual challenge that you'll really enjoy'." Professor Wendy Hall is Professor of Computer Science at Southampton University. She founded the Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia (IAM) Research Group in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton and is currently the Head of School. She also carries a picture of herself with David Beckham in her wallet. You can find out more about Professor Hall and her research projects here. ® Related stories DTI calls women back to science and technology BCS names Excellence in IT shortlist Women still victims of male stereotyping Pregnant employees treated like dirt
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Sep 2004

UK stumps up £1.1m for cash-strapped nuke watchdog

The UK government has chipped in £1.1m to help out the cash-strapped International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - charged with monitoring the spread of nuclear weapons. The money is intended to prop up the IAEA's ailing IAEA Safeguards Information System (ISIS), which processes data about clandestine nuclear weapons programmes. DTI Minister Nigel Griffiths said: "Countering the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a key priority for the Government and international community. The IAEA has a central role in this area, in particular through continued effective and efficient safeguards work. This is why the ISIS re-engineering project is so important." However, the UK hand-out is merely part of the funds required to revamp the IAEA's outdated 1970s IT infrastructure. The £1.1m will simply allow the agency to "engage contractors for the project" - which presumably means a load of blokes looking despairingly at servers while tutting, sucking air through their teeth and offering: "Oh dear. Who installed this lot mate? It's gonna cost you...." Indeed, the DTI press release notes that the IAEA "does not have the funds necessary to complete the ISIS re-engineering project, and has requested financial support from its Member States. To date, only the UK and the US has provided funding for the project". It also warns: "Failure to replace the hardware and software now would carry high risks, with the potential for even higher costs to be incurred later." The IAEA, meanwhile, is currently holding its 48th general conference in Vienna. As an example of what it has to deal with, here's an extract from a statement to the conference by Reza Aghazadeh, vice prez of Iran and head of the Islamic republic's Atomic Energy Organization: For more than a quarter of century, in spite of sanctions, discrimination, deprivation and 8-year imposed war, our great nation has been able to stand on her feet and to struggle for independence and sustainable development. Unjustified continuous sanctions on various items even with direct impact on humanitarian needs as well as the ones with peaceful application of nuclear energy left no other option than the national mobilization for selfsufficiency. Remarkable achievements on various peaceful applications of nuclear technology and various stages of nuclear fuel production are the result of decades of huge investment and scientific efforts of our eminent experts. Our great nation will not permit any interference and or interruption in our purely peaceful and indigenous nuclear program and it will not give up, at any price. Iran is, of course, reacting to US and British sabre-rattling about its alleged nuclear weapons programme. Rather smartly, Aghazadeh notes: It is just too extreme an irony, that Israel’s nuclear weapons program is not only tolerated, but indeed assisted and aided and impunity is prescribed and applied to the fullest, while peaceful programs with no established evidence of diversion are scrutinized. Such acute double-standard can not, must not and will not be sustained at the Agency. We wish the agency well in successfully negotiating this particular political minefield, and hope that it can soon migrate its IT infrastructure onto something a little more cutting-edge. Perhaps Iran and Israel might be persuaded to open their wallets in the interests of international peace, love and understanding? ® Related stories Five lose jobs over nuke lab security debacle Nevada nuke test fallout turns up in Hertfordshire Four dead in Japanese nuclear plant accident Ukrainian nukes go AWOL Russian nuclear warship ready to blow
Lester Haines, 22 Sep 2004

Get a PALight Workman for just £9

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion If you're looking for budget illumination but don't want to compromise on quality, then may we recommend the PALight Workman - a snip at just £7.65 (£8.99 inc VAT). This compact rubber-cased LED torch offers two modes - one to two years' "always on" glow for easy location, and 40 hours of brilliant white light - all from just one standard 9V battery. At this price, it's ideal for chucking in the car boot or toolbox for emergency use on a "forget about it until you need it" basis. We also have a few of the original four-mode PALight left in our torch section at the knock-down price of £12.76 (£14.99 inc VAT). As well as the always-on glow, the PALight has low and high continuous beams and flashing mode for emergency beacon use. Since we only have a handful of these remaining on the shelf in green, red and blue LED models, get 'em while you can at the reduced tariff. ®
Cash'n'Carrion, 22 Sep 2004

Fly.be rapped for 'harass Swiss ref' email ad

Three months on, England's ignominious exit from the European Championship continues to cause trouble. UK advertising watchdogs this week slammed low fare airline Fly.be for sending out an email ad inviting people to hassle Swiss Euro2004 ref Urs Meier, who officiated England's ill-fated quarter final match against Portugal. Meier's decision to disallow a headed goal by Sol Campbell in the closing minutes of the game made him a scapegoat in some circles for England's exit from the competition. Fly.be sent out an email the day after England's defeat to Portugal on penalties which poked not-so-gentle fun against referee Meier. The ad featured a cartoon of a man screaming and beating the ground in frustration. Text next to the cartoon stated: WE WAS ROBBED!! But you won't be with flybe's post EURO blues sale! As a mark of respect to our lads, and some of the worst refereeing in years we have suspended services to Switzerland, his home country. We may think about bringing them back next year, but we won't be flying Referee Meier for a while! In fact, if you visit flybe.com now you can link through to Mr. Meier's own personal website and leave your feedback on his performance. The ad generated complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that it was "irresponsible and offensive". Complainants believed the message made a joke of racist attitudes and would incite recipients to harass Urs Meier. Fly.be said the email did not contain any negative Swiss stereotypes. It asserted that the email reflected the mood of the nation, in a humorous way, on the day after England's defeat to Portugal in Euro 2004. The airline claimed their email did not encourage recipients to harass Mr Meier, but "merely to leave him feedback". The Authority rejected this argument and upheld the complaint. Yes the email was intended to be humorous, and did not contain any negative Swiss stereotypes, but it was irresponsible of Fly.be to direct more attention at Meier, ASA ruled. The Authority noted that Meier had been placed under police protection after receiving more than 16,000 emails, including death threats, since the day of England's defeat. ASA ruled that Fly.be's email encouraged recipients to leave Meier negative feedback. The Authority concluded that the "email was irresponsible and offensive, because it could have encouraged recipients to harass Meier". One complainant also objected to Fly.be's statement that it was going to suspend service to Switzerland as "misleading" on the grounds that it didn't fly there in the first place. But ASA said that Fly.be suspended its Southampton to Geneva service just before Euro2004 and did not plan to reintroduce the route until December 2004, so its statement on that score was perfectly in order. This complaint was rejected. ® Related stories Uncle Sam demands all air travel records Airlines ground online ticket price gouging Beckham penalty outrage ball heads for space Beckham penalty outrage ball to tour UK Beckham penalty outrage ball lands on eBay
John Leyden, 22 Sep 2004

BT cuts LLU costs

BT has cut the cost of local loop unbundling (LLU) to "stimulate infrastructure investment in the UK communications market". The latest cuts - on top of the reductions announced in May - should make it far more easier for rival telcos to install their kit in BT exchanges and provide services direct to punters. The UK's dominant telco reckons that by investing in new automated processes it has been able to reduce shared LLU prices by a total of 60 per cent since 31 May this year and remains on course to introduce further price cuts (up to 70 per cent on pre-June prices) by the end of the year. Said BT Wholesale chief exec, Paul Reynolds: "Our wholesale prices overall are falling steadily and this move is designed to lead to market stimulation, and to develop a market in which those who are willing to innovate and invest can reap appropriate rewards." BT also appointed Tom Maguire to fill the newly-created role of director of LLU. Maguire was previously a director within BT Wholesale. In the last week Cable & Wireless and cableco NTL have both announced multi-million-pound plans to invest in LLU in the UK. ® Related stories NTL joins unbundling bandwagon C&W to throw £85m at LLU Ofcom reveals prices for LLU Ofcom appoints Last Mile adjudicator Industry warms to BT's LLU price cuts Ofcom hails BT wholesale price cuts BT to slash LLU costs Ofcom hints at LLU cost cuts
Tim Richardson, 22 Sep 2004

JVC launches digital media camera

JVC next week launches a digital media camera that delivers both digital picture and movies at very high quality. Most new digital video cameras can take digital stills, but quality is poor. The Everio is also the first camera that comes with a large-capacity, card-type removable hard disk drive or Microdrive. There is also a separate SD card slot. The Everio lineup consists of two models: the Cube Style GZ-MC200 has a rotation grip, while the cheaper Vertical Style GZ-MC100 is just a slim and pocket-sized camera with no moving parts (except for the LCD screen). Technically, however, they're identical. Both models (costing from € 1199) are equipped with a 2.1-Megapixel CCD and a Megabrid Engine, the main image processor. The newly developed 9-group 11-element structured lens, which offers 10x optical zoom, includes a glass-molded aspherical lens. The DVD-quality MPEG-2 pictures can be recorded for one hour in ultra fine mode or up to five hours, while up to 5595 JPEG stills can be saved. Biggest drawback: the camera won't work with a Mac. Apple's QuickTime format has no support yet for AC 3 audio, which JVC uses for its camera. The Everio won't be the only fully integrated digital still and video camera on the market, but JVC seems to have a head start. The Reg experimented with two early models, and in particular the anti-hand shaking correction had an almost Skycam type of quality. The cameras make their public debut at Photokina 2004, the leading trade fair for the photographic and imaging sector which opens next Tuesday in Cologne. ®
Jan Libbenga, 22 Sep 2004

Public sector snaps up IT pros

Permanent vacancies for IT staff in the public sector grew by 18 per cent in the second quarter of this year and contract positions grew by 19 per cent. For permanent jobs only the electronics and communications industry saw a larger increase: job vacancies in this market grew 31 per cent between April and June 2004. Finance and manufacturing did less well, there was an increase in permanent vacancies of just eight and five per cent each in the second quarter. Richard Nott, sales director at CWJobs, said: "demand for IT jobs in the public sector remains strong. The IT industry is the healthiest it has been in eighteen months and we anticipate that demand for IT personnel will reain steady as the industry makes a full recovery." The most popular skills demanded by the public sector were Oracle, Office, SQL and Java. In terms of advertised salary Oracle developers can expect £50,000, SQL developers £47,000 and Java developers £43,000, figures for Office developers were not available. The rest of the Top Ten was: Unix (£51K), HTML (£48K), Prince(£NA), Windows2000 (£NA), SQL Server (£54K) and Visual Basic (£49K). For contractors the most demanded skill in the public sector is also Oracle development. In second place is Office, then Prince, Unix and SQL. Average hourly rates for contractors were not available. The CWJobs/SSL survey takes information from all the jobs advertised in the UK's leading IT and multi-sector recruitment web sites along with press and trade magazine adverts. ® Related stories The curse of IT specialisation Freelancers fret over tangle of EU red tape IT contracting: don't get carried away
John Oates, 22 Sep 2004

P-cube goes hunting for zombie PCs

P-Cube, the traffic management firm Cisco agreed to buy for $200m last month, is aiming to tackle the problem of spam at source by detecting and quarantining spam zombie machines. P-Cube's IP service control platform allows service providers to identify subscribers, classify applications and offer differentiated service performance. The technology makes it easier for telcos to control and manage advanced IP services such as voice-over-IP, interactive gaming, video-on-demand, or P2P traffic. P-Cube has tweaked this technology to help fight one of the principal causes of spam. A new version of the Engage service application (Engage v2.1) of P-Cube’s Service Control Platform released this week provides ISPs with a tool for network-based detection and protection from spam zombie attacks. Worms such as MyDoom and Bagle (and Trojans such as Phatbot) surrender the control of infected PCs to hackers. These expanding networks of compromised zombie machines (dubbed 'botnets' by the computer underground) can be used for spam distribution or as platforms for DDoS attacks. By using compromised machines - instead of open mail relays or unscrupulous hosts - spammers can bypass IP address blacklists. A great deal of spam (between 40 to 80 per cent depending who you ask) originates from spam zombies. The large number of attacking machines makes it difficult to identify the source of a spam zombie-based attack or to take corrective action in real time without causing massive disruption to network operations and legitimate users. P-Cube claims to have licked this problem with technology that is both application and subscriber-aware. This approach allows service provider to identify spam zombie activity from a particular subscriber, block their email transmissions and redirect the infected subscriber to a site where the system can be purged of the zombie infection. Engage can perform these functions without introducing latency into the network, P-Cube claims. The approach is similar to the detect, isolate and cleanse approach Cisco has taken with its Network Admission Control program. The scheme involves a combination of technology from Cisco and AV vendors to combat the spread of computer worms across corporate networks. P-Cube's service platform competes with products from companies such as Ellacoya Networks and Sandvine. As the market evolves its likely that traffic management technology will be increasingly brought into play alongside conventional anti-spam filtering in combating the zombie menace. ® Related stories Cisco combats network worms Rise of the Botnets Telenor takes down 'massive' botnet Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs
John Leyden, 22 Sep 2004

Former Freeserve duo dial in to VoIP

Two co-founders of Freeserve have embarked on a new venture which they hope will transform the telecoms market in much the same way that the ISP shook-up the UK's internet sector. Ajaz Ahmed has been named chief exec of VoIP outfit Callserve after former boss, Peter Whent, stood down in the summer for personal reasons. Former Freeserve man - Rob Wilmot - has been appointed CTO. Said Mr Ahmed: "Since leaving Freeserve [renamed Wanadoo earlier this year] in 2001, we have been looking for the next 'big' opportunity and there is no question that VoIP is it. VoIP is a revolutionary technology that is going to transform communications in the same way that the internet changed commerce in the late 90s. "We know that Callserve Communications is the right company, in the right industry, at the right time, and we have some exciting plans to shake up the way people access telecoms services worldwide." Mr Ahmed would not disclose what those "exciting plans" might be but it's understood that the company could be getting ready to unveil an easy-to-use mass market internet telephony product before the end of the year. ® Related stories Ofcom sets out stall on VoIP IP telephony tests go global BT shaves a quid off VoIP service
Tim Richardson, 22 Sep 2004

Broken oxygen generator threatens space station

A UK space scientist has warned that a broken oxygen generator could spell disaster for the International Space Station (ISS). The Elecktron unit, which converts waste water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, broke down suddenly on 8 September, and failed again over the weekend. As yet, Astronaut Mike Fincke and Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka have been unable to work out what's wrong. They got it working again for short periods, but it keeps shutting down. Despite this, NASA says they are not in any danger. The two astronauts have plenty to breathe, thanks to oxygen canisters and oxygen-releasing candles. If they can't fix the generator, however, the ISS could be in trouble. Russia has been the only nation servicing the station since NASA grounded US shuttles after the Columbia disaster. It confirmed it will launch the craft to replace the outgoing crew on 11 Oct. The craft will orbit the Earth for 10 days before collecting Fincke and Padalka, and dropping off their replacements, Russian Salizhan Sharipov and NASA's Leroy Chiao. The plan is that Sharipov and Chiao will live on the station for the next six months. But if the current crew can't fix the generator before they arrive, there will not be enough guaranteed oxygen on board to cover that period, the emergency oxygen supplies will only last for 140 days, and the mission could be in jeopardy. André Balogh, a space expert at Imperial College London, who was involved in planning the European Space Agency's work on board, told Nature: "If [the station] is left uncrewed and unsupplied, things are going to get very difficult. If it is not continuously inhabited, its habitability is seriously damaged, and the longer they leave it without crew, the harder it will be to send people back." A NASA spokesperson said the generator and the issues it raises will be discussed at a mission review meeting, on Friday. ® Related stories NASA pumps $400m into nuclear space probe Methane on Mars: aliens - or farts in a jacuzzi? ESA tests microgravity with orbiting pail of water
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Sep 2004
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McSoftware pirate jailed for nine months

A Scottish man who pirated computer software valued at an estimated £750,000 was this week jailed for nine months. Brendan Timoney, 40, of the village of Coatbridge, in north Lanarkshire, central Scotland, pleaded guilty to three of eight charges he originally faced at Airdrie Sheriff Court, the Glasgow Evening Times reports. Timoney was selling illegal Adobe and Microsoft software. The illicit business was carried out at his home and from his brother's and mother's house. His brother, Paul, and mother, Rose Margaret, faced the same charges. Both pleaded not guilty and were found innocent after the Crown offered no evidence against them. ® Related stories Cottage shop games pirate, spammer and pornographer jailed UK gov moves to bust bootleggers 57 cuffed in UK anti-piracy crackdown 11 charged over 'biggest-ever' MS piracy bust German MS counterfeiters sent to jail
John Leyden, 22 Sep 2004

Former CA chief Kumar indicted as firm coughs up $225m

Former Computer Associates chief Sanjay Kumar has been hit with charges of securities fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy by the US DoJ (Department of Justice) - a result of the company's long-running accounting scandal. The Feds today unsealed the charges, which were initially handed down last week by a federal grand jury in New York. Kumar was additionally slapped with one count of perjury and one count of making false statements to law enforcement officers. Former CA Head of Sales Stephen Richards was also charged with securities fraud conspiracy and obstruction of justice. "The defendants are accused of perpetrating a massive accounting fraud that cost public investors hundreds of millions of dollars when it collapsed. Then they allegedly tried to cover up their crimes by lying,” said Deputy Attorney General Comey, who chairs the President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force. “If proven true, such conduct cannot be tolerated and the Corporate Fraud Task Force’s track record shows that it will be met with severe penalties.” CA today agreed to shell out $225m to pay back victims of the fraud. The US Attorney's Office has agreed not to prosecute CA, if it follows an agreement laid down by the office. CA's financial results will be watched by an outside monitor for the next 18 months. The software maker had once offered up $10m to settle the investigation into its accounting practices. Bit short; it seems. Along with today's charges, Stephen Woghin, CA's former general counsel, pleaded guilty to securities fraud conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. Kumar and Richards are accused of engineering what has now become infamously known as the "35-day month" accounting scheme. This plan would see CA allegedly count revenue on the books before deals had actually been closed. CA has chalked up $2.2bn in premature revenuelation so far. "The indictment alleges that on Oct. 23, 2003, Richards perjured himself while testifying under oath before the SEC by attempting to conceal the existence of the 35-day month practice and his involvement in it," the DoJ said. "The indictment also alleges that Kumar, in an interview with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Nov. 5, 2003, made materially false statements to conceal the same scheme and his involvement in it." Both former executives could face prison sentences up to 100 years, if convicted on all counts. “With these agreements, CA has taken a critical step in closing this deeply troubling chapter in its history,” said CA Chairman Lewis Ranieri. “On behalf of the company and all its employees, we tender our sincere apologies to our shareholders and customers. “Some former members of CA’s management engaged in illegal activity,” Ranieri said. “Violations of law and ethical standards, including securities fraud, obstructing a government investigation, and lying to CA’s Board of Directors and CA’s lawyers cannot be condoned. We fully support the government’s efforts to bring all responsible parties to justice." Kumar initially stepped down from the CEO and Chairman's positions to take on a software chief role at CA after the conclusion of an SEC investigation into the company's practices. He then decided it was best to leave CA all together. ® Related stories Former CA boss Kumar exits stage left CA 2003 results delayed CA puts 35-day month and $2.2bn in revenue behind it Man overboard! CA chief Kumar walks plank... CA makes nine workers remedial CA faces SEC action
Ashlee Vance, 22 Sep 2004

Former CA boss Kumar charged with fraud, obstructing justice

Sanjay Kumar, former Computer Associates boss, has been charged with securities fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice over a $2.2bn company-wide accounting fraud. Stephen Richards, CA's ex-head of worldwide sales, faces the same charges. Stephen Woghin, CA’s former general counsel and senior vice president, pleaded guilty today to securities fraud conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges for his role in the fraudulent scheme. Kumar and Richards face a maximum sentence of 100 years apiece if found guilty on all charges, while Woghin could face up to 25 years in jail. Deputy Attorney General James Comey said the defendants are "accused of perpetrating a massive accounting fraud that cost public investors hundreds of millions of dollars when it collapsed. Then they allegedly tried to cover up their crimes by lying.” Ira Zar, CA's former chief financial officer, and three former senior executives have already pleaded guilty to charges arising from the accounting fraud. Kumar's charge sheet was revealed today, as CA announced it had settled investigations with the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission. The DoJ is to defer prosecution of CA for 18 months, giving the software maker a chance to show that it has changed its financial reporting practices. CA is also paying $225m to shareholders for "losses caused by the misconduct of certain former company executives". It has accepted full responsibility for its conduct during the period, which resulted accounting fraud and mis-statement of revenue, and for trying to stymie the investigation by the DoJ and the SEC. CA Chairman Lewis Ranieri said: “Some former members of CA’s management engaged in illegal activity. Violations of law and ethical standards, including securities fraud, obstructing a government investigation, and lying to CA’s Board of Directors and CA’s lawyers cannot be condoned. We fully support the government’s efforts to bring all responsible parties to justice. In addition, we will do everything in our power to help the government recover unjust enrichments. The Restitution Fund, the numerous changes we have made over the past year, and the changes we will make in the future will help rebuild confidence in our Company." And now for the DoJ's statement on the accounting fraud and obstruction of justice allegedly committed by Kumar and other CA executives. ® The Accounting Fraud Scheme: The ‘35-Day Month’ According to the indictment, in fiscal year 2000, Kumar and Richards, along with others, allegedly took part in a systemic, company-wide practice of falsely and fraudulently recording and reporting within a fiscal quarter revenue associated with certain license agreements, even though those agreements had not in fact been finalized and signed during that quarter. This practice, sometimes referred to within CA as the “35-day month” or the “three-day window,” violated generally accepted accounting principles and resulted in the filing of materially false financial statements. The goal of the 35-day month, according to the indictment, was to permit CA to report that it met or exceeded its projected quarterly revenue and earnings when, in truth, it had not. The indictment alleges instances in which Kumar and Richards personally advanced the goals of the 35-day practice. For example, Kumar, assisted by former CA Chief Financial Officer Ira Zar, kept CA’s books open at the end of fiscal periods. In the week following the end of fiscal periods, while the books were held open, Kumar and Richards directed CA sales managers and salespeople to finalize and backdate license agreements. Revenue from those falsely dated license agreements was then improperly recognized in the quarter just ended. Kumar and Richards allegedly met routinely and conferred with each other and with Zar during the week following the end of fiscal periods to determine whether CA had generated sufficient revenue to meet the quarterly projections, and closed CA’s books only after they determined that CA had generated enough revenue to meet the quarterly projections. Zar and three other individuals - David Kaplan, former Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration; David Rivard, former Vice President of Finance; and Lloyd Silverstein, former Divisional Senior Vice President in Charge of the Global Sales Organization - have previously pleaded guilty to charges arising out of the CA investigation. The magnitude of the 35-day month accounting fraud scheme was made apparent on April 26, 2004, when CA filed forms with the Securities and Exchange Commission restating certain financial data for the fiscal years 2000 and 2001. The restatement was based on an internal investigation conducted by CA’s Audit Committee which found that $2.2 billion of revenue was booked prematurely. Obstruction of Justice In early 2002, the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Northeast Regional Office of the SEC began investigations into CA’s accounting practices. In February 2002, CA retained a law firm to represent it in connection with the government investigations. Shortly after being retained, the company’s law firm met with Kumar, Richards, Woghin and other CA executives in order to inquire into their knowledge of the practices that were the subject of the government investigations. During these meetings, the defendants and others allegedly failed to disclose, falsely denied and concealed the existence of the 35-day month practice. Kumar, Richards, Woghin and others allegedly presented to the law firm an assortment of false justifications to explain away evidence of the 35-day month practice. The indictment alleges that Kumar, Richards and Woghin knew, and in fact intended, that the company’s law firm would present these false justifications to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the SEC and the FBI in an attempt to persuade the government that the 35-day month practice never existed. The indictment further alleges that Kumar frequently instructed Woghin to meet with CA employees prior to their being interviewed by the government or the company’s lawyers to coach them on how to answer questions without disclosing the 35-day month practice. The indictment alleges that on Oct. 23, 2003, Richards perjured himself while testifying under oath before the SEC by attempting to conceal the existence of the 35-day month practice and his involvement in it. The indictment also alleges that Kumar, in an interview with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Nov. 5, 2003, made materially false statements to conceal the same scheme and his involvement in it. If convicted on all counts, Kumar and Richards each face a maximum prison sentence of 100 years. Woghin faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years on the charges to which he pleaded guilty. The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. ® Related links DoJ statement CA statement Related stories Former CA boss Kumar exits stage left Man overboard! CA chief Kumar walks plank... CA faces SEC action
Drew Cullen, 22 Sep 2004