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Technology / AI and automation

Former HP chair faces felony charges over board probe

HP chief executive Mark Hurd was not named in the complaint.

Former HP senior lawyer Kevin Hunsaker, private investigators Ronald DeLia and Bryan Wagner, and Joseph DePante, an information broker hired by DeLia, were indicted. They have all been charged with using false or fraudulent pretenses to garner confidential information from a public utility, identity theft, unauthorized access to computer data, and conspiracy to commit these crimes.

The indictments follow a congressional panel hearing last week, in which Hurd and Dunn pled ignorance of the details of HP’s unethical and possibly illegal practices as part of its internal probe into board leaks to the media.

Pretexting, a deceptive method used to obtain cell phone records, was one of those practices used by an unknown number of private investigators hired by HP was pretexting. As many as seven HP directors, two employees, and nine reporters and their families might have been subjected to pretexting as part of HP’s probe.

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Pretexting is believed to be outlawed in a handful of US states, including HP’s native California. A national law is not clear-cut and it is not yet clear whether any federal laws were broken during the HP investigation.

Also, at least two of HP’s targets were followed and some had their trash sorted through by investigators. The detectives also tried to trace emails.

In addition to Dunn’s resignation, which followed once the spying scandal broke a few weeks ago, several other executives and HP’s general counsel have left the company. The US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission also are investigating HP’s probe.

While Dunn said at last week’s congressional hearing that she was aware phone records were being obtained as early as June 2005, she said she had no knowledge of the investigative methods used to obtain them. When a congressman asked how she thought the itemized phone bills of those being investigated were obtained, Dunn responded from publicly available sources.

However, documents have since come to light that show Dunn personally supplied third-party detectives with the phone numbers of two reporters thought to be implicated in the board media leaks without their consent.

Last week, the country’s top two mobile carriers Cingular Wireless LLC and Verizon Wireless filed separate lawsuits against some of the investigators hired by HP. Most of those detectives were not named, but the carriers said they would pursue any others involved, once their identities came to light.

According to the suits, those investigators made pretexting calls to the carriers’ call centers, illicitly accessed their computers and data storage facilities or were paid to sell confidential customer information.

The first phase of the investigation, which was known internally at HP as Kona I, began in the spring of 2005, while a second phase, Kona II, began in January, following a quote in CNET News.com from an unnamed source about a board meeting at the company.
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CBR Staff Writer

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