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IT pros ape Apple manager charged with bribery

Apple exec used personal e-mail to avoid detection ... and so do IT professionals, says survey

August 18, 2010 03:29 PM ET

Computerworld - Most IT professionals share one thing with the Apple manager accused of accepting millions in bribes and kickbacks, a firm that develops secure file transfer software said today.

They use private e-mail accounts to transfer confidential company information.

"Not only is it common, but it's startling in its frequency," said Hugh Garber, a product manager at Lexington, Mass.-based Ipswitch.

According to Ipswitch, which surveyed attendees at the Infosecurity Europe conference held in London last April, more than two-thirds of IT professionals admitted sending classified company information, including customer data and financial information, via personal e-mail at least once a month. Over a third do so daily.

More disturbing, said Garber, was that 40% of those polled said that they used personal e-mail accounts to avoid any audit trail of what was sent and to whom.

"Of course, most of that privileged information misuse is not malicious," said Garber. "Many of the times, it's your hardest-working employees just trying to get the job done."

Workers turn to personal e-mail accounts because they see them as a faster, easier way to transfer data than company-provided accounts, which typically have size limits on attachments, said Garber. But it's also obvious that some want to mask the data transfers from management, he added.

That's exactly what Apple has accused one of its employees of doing.

In a civil lawsuit filed last Friday in a San Jose, Calif., federal court, Apple charged Paul Shin Devine, a global supply manager in charge of procuring iPhone and iPod component parts, with taking more than $1 million in bribes and kickbacks from half a dozen Asian suppliers over a three-year period.

Devine has also been indicted on 23 criminal counts by a federal grand jury, and is currently being held in custody. He now faces a bail hearing next Monday, Aug. 23, on those charges. Earlier this week, Devine pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Apple's lawsuit alleged that Devine used personal accounts on Windows Live Hotmail and Gmail, the Web-based services operated by Microsoft and Google, respectively, to avoid suspicion as he managed a complex bribery scheme.

According to the lawsuit, Apple first discovered Devine's kickback operation in April after imaging the hard drive of his company-supplied notebook, where it found a cache of Hotmail and Gmail messages that allegedly showed he provided suppliers with confidential information they used to secure contracts with Apple.

In several instances, Devine supposedly told his supplier contacts not to e-mail him at his Apple-provided address. "Please avoid use that email as Apple IT team will randomly scan emails for suspicious email communications on forecast, cost and new model information," Devine told one supplier in September 2008, the lawsuit claimed.



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