PacBell Lawsuit Cites DSL Privacy Fears

Los Angeles -- Pacific Bell's digital-subscriber-line
service leaves its customers open to hacker probes, claimed a lawsuit filed against the
telco on behalf of consumers.

The suit seeks to highlight the supposed vulnerability of
customers of shared-network services such as DSL and cable-data lines, and cable-modem
vendors could be added, according to the attorney for the potential class-action lawsuit.

"[An expansion into cable] is certainly being
entertained," Los Angeles attorney Paul J. Hedlund said. "These services create
a virtual tunnel into your machine."

Hedlund filed a lawsuit in December in Los Angeles Superior
Court on behalf of Nathan Hoffman of Woodland Hills, Calif., a PacBell DSL subscriber.

After educating himself about the technology he had bought,
Hoffman installed a software program to detect any outside probes. Since then, he has
detected numerous attempts to hack his PC, according to the lawsuit.

The suit accuses the SBC Communications Inc. subsidiary of
fraud and false advertising. A PacBell spokesman said he was unaware of the lawsuit,
adding that the company's policy is to not comment on litigation.

"Anything that's on 24-7 is vulnerable ... yet
Pacific Bell advertises these as secure lines. Unless that means you can't manually
rip them out," that's false advertising, the attorney asserted.

The suit seeks class-action status for DSL users who have
subscribed since 1995. California's other major telco, GTE Corp., also offers DSL in
the state, and it has been aggressively deploying the service.

"Poor subscribers are out there, by the thousands,
being sold these lines. It's the most popular thing around," Hedlund said.
"Word has to get out. Vendors have to [make lines more secure] or make customers
aware of the risk."

According to the lawsuit, hackers use a program called
"PC Anywhere" to invade the always-on PCs and view root directories. They can
obtain bank accounts containing life savings, stock and mutual-fund-trading accounts and
credit-card information, especially if a consumer is signed up for online banking
services, the lawsuit indicated.

"The potential for harm is staggering," Hedlund
said, adding that the suit seeks to head off the problem before the wave of
"wholesale identity theft."

The suit did not specify the amount of damages sought by the plaintiffs.