July 16, 2024

Suzuki Moves Closer to Ending Its Partnership With VW

Suzuki, of Japan, has served Volkswagen with a notice of breach of contract, demanding that the German company give it access to important technologies within weeks. Unless it does so, Volkswagen, Suzuki’s biggest shareholder, must sell back its stake and quit the alliance, Suzuki said Friday.

“The whole point of the partnership was to gain access to key technologies, such as those for hybrids and environment technologies,” said the executive vice president of Suzuki, Yasuhito Harayama. “If VW can’t honor that, it must return Suzuki’s shares immediately.”

The latest accusation deepens a feud between the two carmakers. Last month, Volkswagen accused the Japanese company of breaching their agreement by procuring diesel engines from Fiat. It is demanding that Suzuki end that cooperation.

Volkswagen bought a 19.9 percent interest in Suzuki for €1.7 billion, or $2.3 billion at current exchange rates, in January 2009. At the Thursday closing price, that stake was worth $2.4 billion.

“There is not enough invested on either side to justify the effort to try to salvage the relationship,” said Kurt Sanger, an automotive analyst at Deutsche Securities. “Both can and will eventually walk away.”

Suzuki, which says it has yet to hear a proper response from Volkswagen about a proposal for a split, may consider other steps if Volkswagen ignores the notice, Mr. Harayama said.

Last month, Suzuki’s chairman and chief executive, Osamu Suzuki, offered to buy those shares with cash on hand. In return, he promised to give Suzuki’s 1.5 percent stake in Volkswagen, worth $1 billion, back to the German company.

Originally billed as a partnership of equals, the tie-up was meant to bolster Volkswagen’s presence in India for small cars and give Suzuki access to technology it could not afford to develop on its own.

But the partnership has so far failed to deliver any meaningful cooperation.

“If this situation is not resolved quickly, it does not mean that Suzuki is in trouble, but it is in neither company’s interest for this uncertainty to drag on for too long,” said Mr. Harayama, adding that Suzuki engineers were now developing new products without additional outside help.

In 1998, Suzuki joined a strategic partnership with General Motors, which took a 17.4 percent stake in the Japanese company. That arrangement unraveled in 2006 when the U.S. car company sold most of its stake as it scrambled for cash amid ballooning losses.

The Suzuki crisis comes as Volkswagen is juggling other deals, including a merger with Porsche. Volkswagen also plans to combine the German truck maker MAN, in which it bought a majority stake in July, with the Swedish truck maker Scania, a more recent acquisition.

“Suzuki is very good at making practical relationships when it needs something” like diesel engines in India from Fiat or a parts-sharing agreement with Nissan, said Mr. Sanger, the Deutsche Securities analyst. “It does not need to go out and remarry tomorrow.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/15/business/global/suzuki-moves-closer-to-ending-its-partnership-with-vw.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Google Says Hackers in China Stole Gmail Passwords

In a blog post, the company said the victims included senior government officials in the United States, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel and journalists.

It is the second time Google has pointed to an area of China as the source of an Internet intrusion. Its latest announcement is likely to further ratchet up the tension between the company and Chinese authorities.

Last year, Google said it had traced a sophisticated invasion of its computer systems to people based in China. The accusation led to a rupture of the company’s relationship with China and a decision by Google not to cooperate with China’s censorship demands. As a result, Google decided to base its Chinese search engine in Hong Kong.

The more recent attacks were not as technically advanced, relying on a common technique known as phishing to trick users into handing over their passwords. But Google’s announcement was unusual in that it put a spotlight on the scale, apparent origins and carefully selected targets of a coordinated campaign to hijack e-mail accounts.

Google said that once the intruders had logged into the accounts, they could change settings for mail forwarding so that copies of messages would be sent to another address. The company said it had “disrupted” the campaign and had notified the victims as well as government agencies. Executives at Google declined to comment beyond the blog post. The company recommended that Gmail users take additional security steps, like using a Google service known as two-step verification, to make it more difficult to compromise their e-mail accounts. But it emphasized that the password thefts were not the result of a general security problem with Gmail.

Google acknowledged that it had been alerted to the problem in part by Mila Parkour, a security researcher in Washington who posted evidence of a type of phishing attack on her blog in February. She documented examples of what has recently been described as a “man-in-the-mailbox” attack, in which the intruder uses the account of one victim and his e-mail contacts to gain the trust of a new victim.

Ms. Parkour wrote that the method used in this attack “is far from being new or sophisticated,” but that she was posting information about it because of “the particularly invasive approach of the attack.”

She highlighted a fake document titled “Draft US-China Joint Statement” that was circulated among people with e-mail accounts at the State Department, the Defense Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency and Gmail. Clicking to download the document directed users instead to a fake Gmail log-in page that captured their passwords.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the White House was looking into the matter.

“We have no reason to believe that any official U.S. government e-mail accounts were accessed,” Ms. Hayden said in an e-mail.

Google said the attacks apparently originated in Jinan, a provincial capital in eastern China. The city is a regional command center for the Chinese military, one of seven in the country. It is also home to the Lanxiang Vocational School, which was founded with military support. Last year, investigators looking into the attack on Google’s systems said they had traced some of the hacking activity back to the school.

At the time, government and school officials strongly denied any connection with the attack, and China’s foreign ministry said linking the Chinese authorities to such attacks was “baseless, highly irresponsible and hype with ulterior motives.”

That earlier attack appeared to be aimed at gathering information on human rights activists who were involved in political campaigns aimed at China. It was part of a wave of attacks that hit a range of American companies beginning in mid-2009 and that was first publicly disclosed by Google in January 2010.

Chinese government media officials were not immediately available to comment on Google’s latest announcement.

Rafal Rohozinski, a network security specialist at the SecDev Group in Ottawa, said it was impossible to lay blame for the campaign on the Chinese government with any certainty. Because of the borderless nature of the Internet, it is easy for intruders to connect through a series of countries to mask their identities. “The fact that someone is harvesting Gmail credentials is not surprising,” Mr. Rohozinski said.

This year, the Chinese government has stepped up its controls over the Internet within the country, with increased scrutiny of news and blog sites, particularly in the wake of political upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East.

The government has also apparently crippled some virtual private network services, or VPNs, which have been used by Chinese and expatriates to gain access to corporate e-mail or get around controls that block many Web sites from being entered in China, like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Security specialists said the Google warning to users was an indication that efforts to place the responsibility for Internet security on individuals was failing.

“I think this is impossible to solve by going to one user at a time and trying to teach them how to behave on the Internet,” said Nir Zuck, founder and chief technology officer of Palo Alto Networks. “It doesn’t matter how much education you put into it — you will always have end users that will make a mistake.”

John Markoff reported from San Francisco and David Barboza from Shanghai.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/technology/02google.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Labor Panel to Press Reuters Over Reaction to Twitter Post

The board asserts that the company’s Reuters news division violated the reporter’s right to discuss working conditions when her supervisor reprimanded her for posting a message on the Twitter service that said, “One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members.”

The author of the post, Deborah Zabarenko, the agency’s environmental reporter in Washington and the head of the Newspaper Guild at Reuters, sent that to a company Twitter address after a supervisor had invited employees to send postings about how to make Reuters the best place to work.

“The next day the bureau chief called me at home,” Ms. Zabarenko said in an interview. “He told me that Reuters had a policy that we were not supposed to say something that would damage the reputation of Reuters News or Thomson Reuters. I felt kind of threatened. I thought it was some kind of intimidation.”

A National Labor Relations Board official confirmed late Wednesday that the board’s Manhattan office had informed Thomson Reuters and the union of the planned complaint. The official, who insisted on anonymity because the complaint had not yet been filed, confirmed that it involved an accusation that the company had violated a worker’s federally protected right to engage in concerted, protected activity with co-workers to improve working conditions.

Typically, the agency warns parties before a formal complaint is filed to encourage settlement of the dispute. If no settlement occurs, an administrative law judge will hear the complaint.

A Thomson Reuters spokeswoman said the company was surprised by the board’s complaint because it did not believe Ms. Zabarenko had even been disciplined. She said the company’s social media guidelines were straightforward and like those at many other companies.

The Newspaper Guild, which represents 420 Reuters employees, has been in contract talks with the company since before the old contract expired 26 months ago.

Last November, the labor board accused a Connecticut ambulance service of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page. The board asserted that workers’ criticisms of their bosses or companies in conversations with their co-workers on a social networking site were a protected activity and that employers would generally be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements.

In February, the board announced a settlement with the company, American Medical Response, which agreed to change its blogging and Internet policy, which had barred employees from making disparaging remarks against the company or its supervisors.

Labor law specialists say employees have the right to criticize or disparage their companies or supervisors as part of a conversation aimed at improving working conditions, but do not have the right to merely curse supervisors or make untrue, disloyal statements that damage a company’s reputation.

Peter Szekely, secretary-treasurer of the Newspaper Guild of New York, said the labor board had told the union it planned to file additional charges against Thomson Reuters over a new pay plan and other issues.

Of the Twitter charge, he said, “Management unilaterally implemented a policy that restricts the free speech of its employees, and for a news organization that’s inappropriate.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4f39046f1b0cfa52084027b71049d3b1