RealTime IT News

HP Scandal Investigation Expands

A probe by Bill Lockyer, California's attorney general, into the mounting scandal behind HP's leak hunt has expanded to Massachusetts.

"The California attorney general reached out to us last week," confirmed Meredith Baumann, press secretary for Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly.

Baumann refused to provide details on the Massachusetts connection with the HP case. "This is California's investigation."

A source close to the California investigation said Massachusetts was brought in because a firm linked to HP's investigation is based in Boston.

Lockyer's office said tracing HP could involve a chain of individuals across many states.

Massachusetts' involvement came amid reports a Boston-area private investigation company may be involved in pretexting, the controversial practice of claiming to be someone else in order to obtain personal information, such as telephone records.

Security Outsourcing Solutions of Boston is being linked to HP's hiring of an unnamed third-party that HP said last week used pretexting to gain access to the personal phone records of its board members, nine journalists and others.

Calls by internetnews.com to Security Outsourcing Solutions were answered by the law firm Bonner, Kiernan, Trebach & Crociata, which shares a phone number and address with the P.I. firm.

All questions were referred to John Kiernan who did not return calls asking why the P.I. firm and the law office shared contact information.

The law firm, which also has offices in Washington, DC and elsewhere, lists corporate investigations as one of its practice groups.

Wednesday, California prosecutors attempted to put the brakes on speculation it might bring charges against the computer-maker as early as next week.

Tom Dresslar, spokesman for Lockyer, told internetnews.com the office would not follow any timeline.

The case received more attention earlier this week following remarks Lockyer made.

"We currently have sufficient evidence to indict people, both within Hewlett-Packard, as well as contractors on the outside," Lockyer told PBS's Jim Lehrer Tuesday.

As previously reported, a joint video presentation by HP chairperson Patricia Dunn and CEO Mark Hurd to employees Tuesday designed to provide answers why she will step down in January instead raised new questions about how wide the search was for leaks.

Investigative techniques "were practiced on a number of individuals including certain directors, two employees and a number of individuals outside the company including journalists," Dunn said, according to transcripts of the speech.

Previously, HP had admitted its investigation only involved the company board of directors and several journalists that covered the company.

A growing chorus of critics now question how much Dunn and other HP executives knew.

"She should resign," said Paul Saffo, longtime Silicon Valley observer and technology forecaster.

"January is nonsense. Either she knew what was going on or is incompetent -- either way, she shouldn't be there," he told internetnews.com.

HP executives may have been unaware of the jargon, not knowing "pretexting" could spell trouble, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

However, HP leaders were some of the biggest names in the tech industry.

"In what strange world would an HP exec, upon being told that someone was fraudulently assuming a reporter's identity to gain access to that reporter's personal records, not have an immediate coronary and expire on the spot?" Enderle asked.