Global Dispatches

An international news digest

E-voting Critics Claim to Find Flaws in Systems

GROENLO, Netherlands -- A team of Dutch researchers who belong to a group that advocates against the use of e-voting systems said this month that they have found security flaws in machines used in most of the Netherlands and in parts of Germany and France.

The alleged security shortcomings in the ES3B voting systems were detailed in a report that was posted this month on the Web site of an organization called Wij Vertrouwen Stemcomputers Niet (“We Don’t Trust Voting Computers”). The researchers are members of the Amsterdam-based group, which has called for a return to paper ballots.

The ES3B systems were jointly developed by Groenlo-based hardware vendor NV Nederlandsche Apparatenfabriek, which is known as Nedap, and Groenendaal Uitgeverij BV, a software developer in Hilversum, Netherlands.

The report was based on a month-long examination of three ES3B machines that the report said are similar to the ones used by 90% of the voters in the Netherlands. The probe found that hackers “can gain complete and virtually undetectable control over the election results,” the researchers wrote.

Nedap officials couldn’t be reached for comment last week. But in a general note on its Web site, the company said it is far more difficult to manipulate votes recorded on e-voting machines than ones cast via paper ballots.

-- Robert McMillan, IDG News Service

Military Agency Still Stung by Support Woes

SYDNEY, Australia -- The IT outsourcing relationship between Australia’s Department of Defence and Kaz Group Pty. has hit new lows on service delivery and user-support levels, according to sources within the agency.

Despite efforts by Sydney-based Kaz to address the support problems, the sources claimed that the situation has deteriorated further since late August, when the Defence Department confirmed that there were shortcomings.

Data obtained by Computerworld Australia on help desk call volumes and waiting times show that support requests categorized as medium priority are taking up to six weeks to resolve.

The Defence Department inked a five-year support outsourcing deal valued at $200 million Australian ($149 million U.S.) with Kaz last year. The agency is defending the Telstra Corp. subsidiary, saying Kaz has taken steps to clear a backlog of help desk requests that escalated during a difficult start-up period.

-- Rodney Gedda, Computerworld Australia

EU, U.S. Sign New Pact On Airline Data Sharing

BRUSSELS -- European Union and U.S. negotiators have reached a new agreement on the sharing of personal data about passengers flying from Europe to the U.S., replacing an earlier deal that was voided by the European Court of Justice.

Finland, which currently holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, helped broker the new agreement after the two sides reached an impasse late last month.

A spokesman for the Finnish government said the deal allows numerous U.S. government agencies to access data such as the names, addresses and credit card information of passengers. U. S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had complained that the old agreement was hampering efforts to fight terrorism because it barred agencies other than the customs and immigration offices from accessing the passenger data.

The Court of Justice ruled in May that the earlier deal was illegal on data privacy grounds and voided it effective Sept. 30. Failure to strike a new deal would have left airlines in legal limbo. If they hadn’t provided the information, they would have faced flight disruptions, fines and the possible loss of landing slots in the U.S. If they had provided it, they would have faced privacy lawsuits in Europe.

-- Paul Meller, IDG News Service

Panel Grills Finance Execs on Data Sharing

BRUSSELS -- Executives from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) and the president of the European Central Bank faced tough questions about the sharing of private data with U.S. authorities from a European Parliament committee earlier this month.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. agencies ordered La Hulpe, Belgium-based SWIFT to give them millions of pieces of information about individuals and companies to help trace terrorism financing.

European data-protection laws forbid transfers of personal data to countries that have weaker privacy laws than European Union members do. But Francis Vanbever, SWIFT’s chief financial officer, noted at this month’s hearing that the messaging services co-operative for the financial industry has data storage facilities in the U.S. “We were obliged to respond to the subpoena,” said Vanbever.

Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, said that the bank has no legal authority to stop SWIFT from sharing financial data with the U.S.

-- Paul Meller, IDG News Service

AT&T Creates Telecom Joint Venture in India

DELHI, India -- AT&T Inc. last week said it will offer long-distance telephone and other networking services to corporate users in India, taking advantage of recent changes in the rules governing investments by telecommunications carriers based in other countries.

The Indian government announced a new policy last November that allows companies with foreign ownership of up to 74% to offer telecommunications services in India. Previously, foreign ownership was limited to 49%.

AT&T said that it has set up a joint venture in Delhi called AT&T Global Network Services India Pvt. in which it owns a 74% stake.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Briefly Noted

Hutchison Essar Ltd., a provider of wireless telecommunications services, has signed an agreement to sell Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry technology in India. Mumbai-based Hutchison will offer BlackBerry handsets and RIM’s push e-mail service to its subscribers. But Hutchison and Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM didn’t say when the service will be launched.

-- Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Microsoft Corp. has named Klaus Holse Andersen to replace J¿rgen Gallmann as CEO of Microsoft Deutschland GmbH and vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Gallmann asked to be released from his contract because of differences with headquarters about Microsoft Deutschland’s strategy, according to the company. Andersen was previously vice president of the company’s Microsoft Business Solutions unit and its small and midmarket systems and partner group.

-- John Blau, IDG News Service

The U.S. Secret Service has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s Ministry of the Interior to formalize their combined efforts to investigate and prevent financial crimes. The two organizations plan to work jointly on various criminal investigations involving cybercrime, the counterfeiting of U.S. currency, credit card fraud and identity theft, the Secret Service said.

Infosys Technologies Ltd. reported a 42% boost in revenue and a 44% increase in profits year to year for the quarter that ended Sept. 30. The Bangalore, India-based outsourcer said profits totaled $199 million (U.S.) on revenue of $746 million for the quarter. Infosys forecast that its total revenue for the fiscal year that ends next March 31 will surpass the $3 billion mark.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Scottish Power PLC in Glasgow said it plans to use mobile computing technology from Denver-based Blue Dot Solutions Inc. to extend its work and asset management systems to mobile devices. Scottish Power supplies energy services to more than 5.1 million home and business customers in Scotland. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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