- As the world paused in the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks Tuesday (US time) that toppled New York's World Trade Center towers and part of the Pentagon building in Washington, major technology companies around the country worked to keep their operations going under heightened security.
What US government officials have called an apparent act of terrorism is feared to have left tens of thousand of people dead and injured in New York, where two hijacked commercial airliners slammed into the twin, 110-story World Trade Center towers. In the nation's capitol, a third commercial jet crashed into the Pentagon, while another attack was reported at the US State Department there.
Chaos and uncertainty following the events closed major US stock exchanges, halting the trading of securities before it even began Tuesday. The New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq stock market and American Stock Exchange said they would remain shut Wednesday. However, most of the major technology companies that are listed on those exchanges remained open for business, with most of their employees at work. Many said that required increased security at their facilities.
"Any company that's not on alert right now is being very shortsighted," says Bill Eyres, founder of The Eyres Group, a security consulting firm in Pacific Grove, California. Eyres is the former director of security at IBM, and headed the company's security operations through the 1980s, when the Armonk, New York-based company was the victim of a series of terrorist attacks from a group called the United Freedom Front.
"Most of the medium and large companies have crisis control teams that come into play in these situations," says Eyres. "That's the thing that they need to do for the next day or two."
Taryn Lynds, a spokeswoman with the American Electronics Association (AeA), a trade group representing some of Silicon Valley's largest technology companies, echoed Eyres' comments. "Many of our member companies do have crisis plans that they are able to implement if need be," she says, noting that big technology companies have procedures to deal with natural disasters. "They can be modified to fit this situation."
Lynds says the AeA, which is headquartered in Washington, where employees of the trade group were evacuated early Tuesday, could not yet assess what fiscal damage to the technology industry Tuesday's events might spawn.
"The financial infrastructure is going to be hammered over the next week or so," Eyres says. "I don't think the hardware folks are going to have a problem. I think its going to be a financial, perhaps insurance issues as opposed to a hardware issue.
"The biggest thing I think you will see is that employees aren't going to travel," he adds.
Meanwhile, major hardware and software vendors that have facilities near the Pentagon and the World Trade Center say they did evacuate some employees and close some offices Tuesday.
Sun Microsystems occupies the 25th and 26th floors in the south tower of the World Trade Center, says Penny Bruce, a company spokeswoman. Approximately 300 of Sun's sales employees are assigned to that office but many of those typically work in the field, she says.
"We do not have a figure as far as how many people were there," Bruce says. "We have been working all day to get in touch with employees."
One knowledge management firm, called TripleHop Technologies, had its offices on the 53rd floor of One World Trade Center. No officials of the company could be reached.
Compaq cleared its sales and services employees out of the company's Manhattan office, according to a source at the company who asked not to be named.
The company also confirmed that a technology consultant with Compaq's services organisation was on board American Airlines Flight 11, which collided with one of the World Trade Center towers Tuesday morning. Compaq is "still taking roll call" of its employees, the company says.
The co-founder and chief technology officer of Akamai Technologies, Daniel Lewin was also confirmed to have died on Flight 11 (see Akamai founder dies in terrorist attack). Oracle lost one employee who was on board one of the hijacked planes as well, and another six Oracle employees were believed to be in the towers at the time of the attack, according to several media reports.
Redmond, Washington-based software maker Microsoft says that it kept most of its operations around the world open. It did shut down its New York and Washington DC offices, says Jim Desler, a Microsoft spokesman.
"We're still open," he says. "But there is heightened awareness here, as with all companies I'm sure."
Similarly, Lucent Technologies beefed up security at its facilities, says Mary Lou Ambrus, vice president for external communications and infrastructure. She declines to comment on what measures that may involve.
The telecommunications and networking equipment maker, based in Murray Hill, New Jersey, says it is advising local facility managers to choose whether to close individual facilities. Lucent is also not requiring employees to stay at work today.
Exodus Communications, a Santa Clara, California-based web hosting company, kept its operations going despite the spike in internet traffic that flooded its 44 web hosting facilities around the world, says Melissa Neumann, an Exodus spokeswoman.
"Both Exodus' operations and all customer operations are continuing unaffected," she says. The company did allow "noncritical employees" to return to their homes in Washington, DC and New York. "Specific to our internet data centres, we've scaled back to skeleton crews," she adds.
Exodus, which hosts websites for some large internet media properties such as the web operations of USA Today and Yahoo, shifted most of its efforts to keeping its web hosting facilities safe. "We have increased security at all of our data centers worldwide and are continuing to monitor the situation," Neumann says.
Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola also kept the majority of its facilities open, the main exception being the company's Washington office, says spokesman Scott Wyman. "Like many businesses and government offices, it was closed at least for today," he says. "But the majority of our offices remained open, with heightened security."
However, Motorola did take down its motorola.com website Tuesday. Users attempting to access any Motorola page gave the message "We're Sorry. . . All Motorola internet sites are temporarily unavailable until further notice."
Wyman would not comment on whether the closure was related to the crashes. "I'm not going to give you a definitive answer," he says. "As expected, Motorola is taking and has taken necessary precautions to safeguard both its employees and facilities."
Wyman declined to speculate on when the website would be back up.
Dell was also operating normally, company spokesman Mike Maher says. "Everything remains open and operations are continuing to function," he says. "Our businesses haven't been affected."
Round Rock, Texas-based Dell does not have an office in New York, and its Washington office is "not in the vicinity of the Pentagon," Maher says.
(Additional reporting by Douglas F Gray and Stephen Lawson in San Francisco.)