• United States
by Staff Writers

In brief: Lawyer sues Microsoft over worms

Oct 06, 20034 mins

Plus: Debate continues over H-1B visas; IT departments to change dramatically by 2010; SCO goes after SGI; storage pros get new user groups.

A California lawyer is trying to organize a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft, saying the company is engaging in unfair business practices in violation of state law because it has failed to secure its software against worms and viruses.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles on behalf of a woman who is seeking undisclosed damages and an order requiring Microsoft to improve its security notification system, which has been a constant target of criticism from end users. The woman says her name and Social Security number were stolen and used fraudulently by someone who hacked into her computer.

Dana Taschner, a Newport Beach, Calif., lawyer who filed the suit, wants to expand it into a class-action case against Microsoft. Traditionally, software makers have been shielded from such legal actions because of licensing agreements that software users sign. Microsoft said it is reviewing the complaint.

A congressional cap on the number of foreign workers allowed into the U.S. on H-1B visas has fallen to pre-dot-com boom levels after Congress failed to reauthorize a higher limit before last week’s deadline. But debate on the program is not over. Congress still could act to increase the number of H-1B visas even though the 2004 fiscal year has started with a cap of 65,000, some supporters and opponents of a higher cap say.

Intel will continue to press for a higher cap and to have advanced-degreed engineers exempted from the cap, says Tracy Koon, a company spokeswoman. “It’s clear when you look at U.S. graduation numbers, there’s a shortage there.”

Even opponents of a higher H-1B cap acknowledge the fight isn’t over although the congressional deadline passed. H-1B critic Norm Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of California at Davis, says he expects the issue to resurface early next year.

The average IT department will look radically different by 2010, full of relationship managers and “touchpoints” between the company and its outsourced suppliers, Gartner Vice President Ian Marriott said at a roundtable last week in London. He said the trend toward outsourcing, including outsourcing business processes and more standard IT services, would involve a complete change of mindset for the IT manager. “The IT department will need fewer technical skills and more business skills,” he said. Persuading management of the need for outsourcing is going to be hard because a huge investment in staff is needed. “You won’t be able to retrain everyone in the IT department, and so you’ll need board commitment to spend the money upfront. You should be spending at least 5% of the value of the outsourcing deal on just managing that deal, or it just won’t be good enough,” he said.

Silicon Graphics Inc. is the latest technology company to be dragged into The SCO Group’s dispute over the Linux operating system. In an Aug. 13 letter addressed to SGI’s legal department and released to the media last week, SCO CEO Darl McBride said SGI’s contributions to Linux put it in breach of its 1986 Unix licensing agreement, originally signed with AT&T but subsequently transferred to SCO.

“SGI flagrantly permitted the copying and use of our proprietary information without any knowledge of the identities of the recipients” and “subjected our source code to unrestricted disclosure, unauthorized transfer and disposition, and unauthorized use and copying,” McBride said in the letter. The letter threatens to terminate SGI’s Unix license as of Oct. 14 should SGI fail to “remedy all violations.”

SGI responded to SCO’s letter in early September with a letter saying SCO’s allegations were without merit, SGI spokeswoman Marty Coleman says.

Two user groups for storage professionals debuted last week. The Association of Storage Networking Professionals, sponsored by a for-profit company, and StorageNetworking.Org, headed by the vendor-neutral Storage Networking Industry Association and the Information Storage Industry Center at the University of California, San Diego will provide members with educational opportunities and the information to make knowledgeable storage acquisitions.

The ASNP will have membership rates of $190 per year; StorageNetworking.Org will be free.