Microsoft admits ‘Passport’ flaw

Microsoft Corp. acknowledged Friday that its “Passport” technology for safeguarding Internet purchases has a serious design flaw that could have allowed hackers to steal credit card numbers and personal information. Microsoft said 2 million customers use the “e-wallet” feature of Passport that was vulnerable, but there was no evidence of actual theft. It temporarily shut down access by all consumers to their virtual wallets starting Wednesday for repairs to the network and testing. That move inconvenienced buyers at roughly 70 e-commerce Web sites that support Microsoft’s wallet technology, called “Express Purchase.” Overall, up to 200 million people have signed up for Passport accounts, which are nearly impossible to avoid under Microsoft’s new Windows XP operating system.

Federal securities regulators have sued Donald Lukens, an investment adviser catering to professional athletes and other wealthy clients, for allegedly defrauding more than 100 investors of at least $12.5 million in a series of schemes in the late 1990s. Among Lukens’ swindled clients were NFL players Simeon Rice of Tampa Bay and Sean Gilbert of the Carolina Panthers, NBA players Kurt Thomas of the New York Knicks and Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz and former boxing champion Terry Norris, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles.

United Parcel Service Inc. said Friday it will raise its ground shipping rate 3.5 percent effective Jan. 7. Overnight and two-day express services will jump 4 percent, while international shipping will increase 3.9 percent. The Atlanta-based package delivery giant also is increasing the fee for residential deliveries a nickel, to $1.10. The fee for air express deliveries to homes will be $1.10 higher than the charge for taking those packages to businesses. UPS also said it is retaining a 1.25 percent temporary fuel surcharge it began charging in August 2000 because of “continued fuel price volatility.”

Insurance giant Prudential PLC plans to slash 2,100 jobs, or 22 percent of its workforce, and to sell its general insurance business to Winterthur of Switzerland, the British company announced Friday. The job cuts, which include 1,000 compulsory layoffs from Prudential’s workforce of 9,500, are part of a plan to restructure the company and boost profitability. The cuts are to be completed by 2003 and come on top of a 2,000-job reduction in Prudential’s sales force earlier this year. All the jobs to be eliminated will be in Britain. Prudential is unrelated to the U.S. company Prudential Insurance Co. of America.

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