HP faces AG probe into 'pretexting' allegations

PALO ALTO: Hewlett-Packard is facing a publicity nightmare as the company is forced to fend off criticism - and potential legal action - resulting from the news that the company allegedly hired a contractor to find out who had leaked information to reporters.

PALO ALTO: Hewlett-Packard is facing a publicity nightmare as the company is forced to fend off criticism - and potential legal action - resulting from the news that the company allegedly hired a contractor to find out who had leaked information to reporters.

The negative affect of this news was compounded by the fact that the contractor apparently accessed the phone records of at least four reporters and maybe as many as nine. The California attorney general confirmed to the media that his office was conducting a criminal investigation.

The situation started when HP chairman Patricia Dunn ordered an investigation into potential leakers, after CNet wrote an extensive January 23 article on the company's long-term strategy, sourcing an unidentified person within the company. The  records of the reporters of that story — Dawn Kawamoto and Tom Krazit — were reportedly found through a process called pretexting, which involves misrepresenting oneself, say as a surveyor, to get personal information necessary to access bank or phone records. The company was allegedly trying to figure out if a board member was the cause of the leaks.

The SF Chronicle has reported that John Markoff of the New York Times and Pui Wing Tam of the Wall Street Journal also had their records searched.

HP could not immediately be reached for comment, but company spokespeople have told the media that they're aware of the investigation.

"We believe that persons at all levels within the company - directors, officers and employees - must be held accountable and have the highest personal integrity," HP spokesman Ryan Donovan told the AP Tuesday, referring to the leaks. "We've changed the culture of this company to one that's driven by accountability and meeting the needs of the customer. These changes have been painful, but we believe they're the right thing to do."

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