by Sarah D. Scalet

Qwest Communications Asked to Pay Up After Code Red Worm

Nov 01, 20012 mins

Qwest Communications thought its problems with the Code Red worm were finally over. Then the Washington state attorney general’s office stepped in.

After receiving complaints from 15 to 20 customers whose DSL coverage was interrupted for 10 days in early August, the attorney general’s office asked the Denver-based company to give refunds to customers?at least one of whom says he lost $5,000 of business during the outage. An e-mail exchange, obtained by CIO through a public records request, provides a rare glimpse behind the curtain when customers, companies and attorneys try to assign blame after a security breach.

“Please tell me how a company gears up for something like the Code Red worm virus?” Qwest executive Debbie Magnus asked the attorney general’s office in an e-mail dated Aug. 17 in response to an e-mail asking the company to issue refunds. “Qwest and Cisco have made every attempt to work with the customers on this problem. The problem is not the modem, the problem is the virus. Qwest is not crediting for the virus problem.”

Steve Larsen, director of the attorney general’s cyberconsumer-protection division, responded that same Friday. “There are a number of companies that did protect against this virus when it came out in July and even before…. It seems reasonable that a customer should not have to pay for service they can’t get. If you can’t watch your cable TV or your newspaper doesn’t show up for days or weeks at a time, I assume you won’t pay.” Larsen then cited an article in that day’s Seattle Times, reporting that DSL customers with the same modems but different DSL providers fared better during the Code Red incident.

“Guess I killed the messenger,” Magnus responded on Aug. 21, explaining more about the worm and how customers could apply a patch. “The credits are through the repair office just as normal repair credits are issued. Keep [the complaints] coming, just as you are supposed to, and I will keep responding without wounding you anymore.”

Nevertheless, in early September a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the complaints were still outstanding.