HP Chairwoman resorted to spying to unmask leaker

— 1:16 PM on September 6, 2006

A new article on Newsweek reveals some interesting details about methods used to unmask an HP director who leaked information to CNet in January. HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn reportedly ordered a team of security experts to illegally spy on the January 2006 home phone records of HP's entire board of directors. Unbeknownst to the board, the security consultants used social engineering to coax phone company employees into revealing information about the directors' accounts. In one case, one of the consultants supplied the last four digits of a director's social security number and was able to convince an AT&T employee to send his home phone records to a Yahoo e-mail address.

The spying did unmask the leaker, but it was ill received by other directors, including HP veteran Tom Perkins who resigned in protest (the leaker, meanwhile, still serves on the HP board today.) The cause of Perkins' departure was subsequently—and unlawfully—concealed from the Securities and Exchange Commission, forcing Perkins to hire an attorney in order to make HP reveal his true motives for leaving. HP is now expected to file a new report about Perkins' resignation with the SEC as early as today.

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