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Test version of AOL 6.0 found online

The online giant confirms that people have obtained copies of a test version of an unreleased upgrade to its client software and are distributing it over the Net.

America Online followers have obtained copies of a test version of an unreleased upgrade to its client software, AOL 6.0, and are distributing it over the Internet, the company has confirmed.

The AOL project, formerly code-named K2 for Karakorum, has been dogged by security lapses. One teenager, who calls himself "Kenton," says he has been legally obtaining details of the project for months, posting them on his Web site, and sharing them with other AOL aficionados intent on tracking every step of the project.

An "alpha" version of AOL 6.0 was available for download this morning at Techpages.com.

The online giant confirmed that the download was an alpha test version of its upcoming AOL 6.0 software.

"We are investigating how this was obtained, and we'll take the appropriate action," said AOL spokesman Rich D'Amato.

Kenton insists he did nothing wrong in gaining access to the software. In an interview today, he said he made the download public as a statement that the company should beef up security for its internal software tests.

"I'd like to stress that companies like AOL need to take more actions to prevent security lapses and breaches," he wrote in an interview conducted over AOL Instant Messenger.

Kenton said that the alpha version can be found in a file library accessible to any AOL staff member or volunteer. He said that he was a community leader for AOL, but was let go when the online giant scrapped the program for underage volunteers in July 1999.

Kenton and the company have jockeyed for months over online postings of AOL documentation and various "builds" of AOL 6.0. As previously reported, Kenton in January posted documents describing AOL's upcoming 6.0 software, spurring the company's attorneys to fire off a three-page letter requesting he take down the material.

D'Amato said there has been no update on AOL's legal initiative.

Despite past warnings, Kenton today posted the link to the test software, and included a screen shot of AOL 6.0's welcome screen. Citing legal concerns, however, he said he is not hosting the most recent download on his own Web site.

Techpages, which is hosting the download, features technology-related news and reviews. Techpages is run by Ryan Neeley, also a student, whom Kenton says is an "Internet contact" of his.

Neeley could not be reached for comment.