Week in review: Dunn leaving, but probe continues

Hewlett-Packard's "pretexting" investigation into media leaks costs Chairman Patricia Dunn her job.

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Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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5 min read
Hewlett-Packard's "pretexting" investigation into media leaks cost Chairman Patricia Dunn her job.

Following two days of meetings by HP's board of directors, the Silicon Valley icon announced that Dunn, whose probe of board members, employees and journalists created a firestorm of controversy, had agreed to resign her post. The board has appointed CEO and President Mark Hurd to take over for Dunn, who will continue to serve as chairman until January.

HP also announced that George Keyworth is resigning from the board, effective immediately. Dunn earlier this year had identified Keyworth as a source of media leaks.

Over the course of the week, it came out that the investigation to find the source of media leaks involved possibly illegal access to phone records of the company's directors, at least nine journalists and, potentially, many other people. As a result, federal and California state prosecutors launched investigations, and civil lawsuits and criminal charges are possible.

Some CNET News.com readers expressed satisfaction with the decision, but others were disappointed that Dunn's departure wasn't immediate.

"So she steps down as chairman, but still remains on the board? What punishment is this?" wrote one News.com reader to the TalkBack forum. "They just don't get how serious of a crime this is."

HP's probe also extended to the company's employees. In a videotaped message to staff, Dunn said the same techniques that were used to obtain details about HP directors and journalists were also used on two employees. An HP representative confirmed that two current employees had their personal records targeted, but would not identify them or say which records were accessed.

The Department of Justice has launched a probe into the techniques HP used to identify the source of media leaks, and a U.S. House of Representatives committee is planning a special hearing on the company's conduct. On Friday, the panel asked Dunn and HP general counsel Ann Baskins to appear at the Sept. 28 hearing.

Media in the mix
Apple Computer overhauled its digital music and video offerings, introducing new iPods in three categories and announcing plans to make movies available for purchase through the iTunes store.

Movies from four studios owned by The Walt Disney Company will be available on iTunes 7, the new version of the download software, the same day they are released to DVD, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in outlining the new offerings at a product showcase in San Francisco. Preorders and movies purchased in the first week will cost $12.99; the price then bumps up to $14.99 for new releases.

Apple also plans to introduce a product in the first quarter of 2007 that lets consumers stream their movies or music to televisions, Jobs said. The new device, code-named iTV, has 802.11 wireless built in. It will sell for $299 and works with PCs and Macs. "We think it completes the picture here," Jobs said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft took the wraps off its Zune media player, though what's underneath is largely what enthusiasts had come to expect. The device, which the company anticipates will be ready in time for the holidays, will come in three colors and be capable, via its built-in Wi-Fi, of sharing full-length songs with other nearby Zune devices, the software giant said.

As had been revealed through regulatory filings, the Zune includes a 30GB hard drive as well as a 3-inch screen. The device will come in black, brown and white. Microsoft declined to provide pricing details beyond saying they will be revealed in the coming weeks and will be competitive.

Zune users can send full-length tracks of select songs, homemade recordings or photos to other Zune players via the device's Wi-Fi system. The shared songs can be heard up to three times over three days. Should a user like a song a friend has shared, the song can be flagged and later can be purchased from the Zune Marketplace.

While Microsoft hopes some iPod users will become Zune buyers, it has no plans to bribe them. Rumors that the company would pay to replace a user's iTunes store purchases with Zune-compatible tracks are not true, Microsoft said.

Microsoft moves
Microsoft is pledging not to assert its patents pertaining to nearly three dozen Web services specifications--a move designed to ease concerns among developers by creating a legal environment more friendly to open-source software.

The Microsoft Open Specification Promise (OSP) allows a third party to create software, or an "implementation," based on a set of technical guidelines grouped under the Web services rubric. It does not require people to sign a license and covers distributors and other people who use a non-Microsoft implementation.

Microsoft is also looking for more people to give Windows Vista a try. The software maker said that the Release Candidate 1 version offered up earlier this month is now being opened up to consumers who were not already testing the new operating system.

Microsoft also unveiled a slew of new desktop and notebook peripherals, many of which include Vista-specific features. The three keyboards, three mice and three Webcam-related gadgets are designed for multimedia lovers and multitaskers. In addition to including features specific to the upcoming Vista operating system, each also works with current versions of Windows.

Fixing a hole
Certainly not all the news for Microsoft was positive. The software giant has issued a third version of a troubled Internet Explorer patch, aiming to fix a bug in an earlier update that could be exploited to hijack Windows PCs. The original, released on Aug. 8, introduced not one but two new security holes. Microsoft addressed one flaw in an updated version of the patch released Aug. 24 and dealt with the second flaw in the third version released Tuesday.

The cumulative security update for the widely used Web browser was one of a dozen security updates delivered last month and was meant to repair eight flaws. Microsoft tagged the update "critical," its most severe rating.

Computer code that could be used to hijack Windows PCs via a yet-to-be-patched Internet Explorer flaw has been posted on the Net, experts have warned. The code was published on public Web sites, where it is accessible to miscreants who might use it to craft attacks on vulnerable Windows computers. The flaw lies in an error in an ActiveX control related to multimedia features and could be exploited by viewing a rigged Web page, experts warn.

In recent months, advisories on new attacks have typically come out shortly after "Patch Tuesday," the second Tuesday of every month, when Microsoft releases its latest set of patches. Some experts believe the timing of the new attack is no coincidence, suggesting that attackers look to take advantage of a full month before Microsoft is scheduled to release its next bunch of fixes.

Meanwhile, Apple released an update to its QuickTime media player software that fixes seven security flaws, all of them serious. The QuickTime vulnerabilities affect both Windows and Apple Mac OS X machines.

The security flaws in QuickTime are all due to the application's failure to properly check and sanitize files in several formats: H.264, QuickTime, FLC, FlashPix and SGI. An attacker could craft a malicious file in any of those formats which, when opened, would fully compromise a vulnerable system or cause QuickTime to crash.

Also of note
The Democratic rival to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged that his aides were responsible for obtaining a controversial audio file, in a move that has led to allegations of Web site hacking...The owner of a software piracy Web site has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison--the longest sentence ever handed down for software piracy...TiVo launched a digital video recorder capable of displaying high-resolution TV signals.