OpenWeb to sue Korean agencies

The non-profit body accuses the Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute and a South Korean ministry of unfairly favoring Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

A non-profit body that lobbies for fair Internet practices and access has announced its intention to sue the Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute (KFTC) and South Korean Ministry of Government and Home Affairs (MOGHA).

The announcement by OpenWeb, made on Jan. 18, comes just over a week before Vista is due to be launched in the consumer market.

Explaining the grounds of intent to file civil lawsuits this week, OpenWeb claimed that KFTC issues security certificates only to those using Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) browser, and MOGHA engaged in "monopolistic endorsement" of the Microsoft IE for its e-government services, optimized exclusively for IE browser users.

One key security feature in Windows Vista is User Account Control (UAC), which restricts user privileges so that malicious code fwould not be able to do as much damage as it would on a machine running in administrator mode. The UAC has the ability to block out ActiveX Control, a feature most Korean Web sites with 128-bit key block algorithm. As a result, the new OS could have an averse effect on online games or Web services sites.

Citizen's Action Network, an activists group for the public and citizen's rights, criticized the situation in Korea, saying that all other possibilities are blocked due to the issues with ActiveX Control. In contrast, Netscape's SSL (secure socket layer) "does not require any royalties" as an international standard practice utilized by businesses such as eBay and Amazon, it pointed out.

The network claims that government officials are trying to protect the ActiveX, and that authorities have been working on partial patch for the ActiveX in past few months.

"Korean government has taken the equality issue completely [out of the hands] of Linux or Mac OS users, not to mention compromising the security issues," it said. "Public Web sites and e-government homepages are the absolute proofs."

OpenWeb said it has considered postponing the suit until the end of year as the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication had announced that it will work toward finding a solution for fair SSL service for all users. "But now, there is no more excuse; we will proceed with the lawsuit," it said. The organization is now seeking a law firm to represent them.

OpenWeb said it is also considering bringing up additional charges against the KFTC to expose its possible antitrust law violations.

When contacted, a MOGHA official said the ministry has not learnt of any suit from OpenWeb, adding that its security team "is working to solve the issues at hand with Vista".

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