Global Dispatches

An international news digest

Stolen U.K. Laptop Held Data on 11,500 Children

MANSFIELD, England -- A U.K. National Health Service primary care trust has launched an investigation into the theft of a laptop containing names, addresses and dates of birth of 11,500 children.

Wendy Saviour, CEO of Nottinghamshire County Teaching Primary Care Trust, said three laptops were stolen on March 21 from PCT offices at Sherwood Forest Hospital. One of them held data on patients between 8 months and 8 years old.

“We are working closely with the police to investigate this theft and to recover the stolen computers,” Saviour said. “There was no health information or other details on the stolen computer. The information was protected by a password.”

The PCT said it has written to nearly 10,000 affected families and set up a help line.

Gary Clark, EMEA vice president of security firm SafeNet Inc. in Belcamp, Md., said that the use of passwords alone to protect data is “woefully inadequate.” He also noted that “passwords need to be reinforced with stronger authentication,” such as encryption, smart cards or USB tokens.

-- Tash Shifrin, Computerworld U.K.

Dresden Seeks EU Funds for Tech Projects

DRESDEN, Germany -- One of Europe’s leading areas for semiconductor research and manufacturing may be unable to compete globally for high-tech investors without greater financial support from the European Union, German government officials said.

The city of Dresden could lose out to high-tech clusters in Asia or the U.S. in attracting new chip-fabrication plants without more funding from Brussels, said Stephan Goessl, a spokesman for the state government of Saxony.

EU subsidies to Dresden and other cities in the former East Germany have declined as poorer countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary have joined the trading bloc.

Until 2002, eastern German states could apply for grants that would subsidize up to 35% of the cost of high-tech projects. That percentage had dropped to 12.4% by the end of 2006 and now hovers around 11.4%, Goessl said.

Georg Milbradt, minister-president of Saxony, has been talking with EU officials in Brussels about creating an industrial development strategy that would provide funds to clusters like Dresden, Goessl said.

“We’re not asking the EU to pour funds on everything, but rather to target funding on technology sectors,” he said.

-- John Blau, IDG News Service

HSBC Bank Australia Exposes Customer Data

SYDNEY, Australia -- More than 100 HSBC Bank Australia Ltd. customers had their banking details, names, home addresses and other personal financial information exposed late last month in a security breach by the bank’s staff.

The information was contained in documents found on an early-morning, peak-hour train in Sydney, said officials of the Sydney-based financial services firm, a unit of HSBC Group in London.

A spokesman for the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner Australia said, “We will look into the matter and make sure procedures are in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

An HSBC Bank Australia spokeswoman called the breach “simply a case of human error. The employee concerned has been disciplined, and the privacy commissioner has been advised of the incident,” she said.

The spokeswoman did not disclose the disciplinary action taken but said that HSBC has no plans to notify customers of the breach.

“It was extremely limited data relating to 24 separate accounts,” she said. “It included no sensitive information as defined by the Privacy Act. All records have been retrieved, and we’re of the view no customers have been impacted.”

-- Sandra Rossi, Computerworld Australia

Capita Group in Line for £290M IT Pact

SOUTHAMPTON, England -- The city council of Southampton, England, has selected Capita Group PLC as its preferred bidder for a 10-year IT project now valued at £290 million ($570 million U.S.).

The contract will cover IT, customer services, human resources, payroll, revenues, benefits, procurement and property services in the city. It is expected to include the transfer of 600 council staffers to Capita.

“It is worth noting that the Southampton bid has taken almost two and a half years to reach this stage,” said Samad Masood, an analyst at Ovum Ltd. “In that time, the value of the deal has almost doubled from the £150 million [$295 million U.S.] that Southampton was originally expecting to pay.”

A council spokeswoman acknowledged the increased value of the contract but noted that more services had been added during the tendering process. “Elements of the council wanted more investigations and other bidders to be considered,” she said.

The council is expected to make a final decision on the contract in July, with the partnership starting on Oct. 1, she said.

-- Tash Shifrin, Computerworld U.K.

Intel Confirms Plan for Chinese Chip Plant

BEIJING -- Intel Corp. President and CEO Paul Otellini last week confirmed that the company plans to build a $2.5 billion chip manufacturing plant in China.

The plant, to be built in Dalian, is expected to begin production during the first half of 2010, Otellini said.

During a press conference last week in Beijing, Otellini said that he hopes the new plant will help Intel drive down manufacturing costs.

With capital expenditure costs generally the same around the world, Otellini said the cost-cutting will likely result from financial incentives and support from the Chinese government.

Construction on the new plant, called Fab 68, will begin later this year. The project is billed as the largest single investment by a foreign company in northeastern China.

The plant will initially produce chip sets, not the company’s flagship microprocessors, Otellini said.

-- Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service
Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Briefly Noted

Michael Powell, former head of the Federal Communications Commission, will lead a U.S.-based advisory board for NTT DoCoMo Inc., the Tokyo-based mobile telecommunications carrier said last week. Powell will be chairman of a board that meets twice a year with NTT DoCoMo officials to provide updates and discuss global social and economic developments.
-- Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Applied Materials Inc. last month opened a new production line machinery lab in Xi’an, China, to develop a range of equipment. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said that 65% of its orders during the first quarter of its 2007 fiscal year came from Asia. Although China generates less revenue than Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, many analysts have said China will likely grow faster than the others.
-- Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service

Microsoft Corp. and Tokyo-based Fuji Xerox Co. last month signed a deal to use each other’s technologies. They said the move is aimed at speeding up the development of new document management systems. Under the cross-licensing agreement, each company will pay to use the other’s patented technology. Financial details weren’t disclosed. Microsoft has signed similar deals in recent months with NEC Corp., Seiko Epson Corp. and Toshiba Corp.
-- John Blau, IDG News Service

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies plans to close a manufacturing plant in Mexico and lay off 11% of its 40,000 workers worldwide in a bid to shore up its hard disk drive operations. The San Jose-based company projects that the move will cut costs by $300 million over the next five years. The plan is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.
-- Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service

European Union finance ministers have agreed on new rules to govern cross-border payment services for transactions made anywhere within its 27 member states. The directive will provide the legal framework for the Single Euro Payments Area, which will begin operating on a limited basis next year and is slated to be fully established by 2010.
-- Computerworld U.K. staff

Global Fact


The percentage of U.K. firms employing more than 1,000 workers that plan to immediately implement Windows Vista.

Source: Camwood Ltd., London

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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