Tech companies open, under tight security

As the world paused in the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks Tuesday 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 U.S. 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 U.S. State Department there.

Chaos and uncertainty following the events closed major U.S. 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,” said Bill Eyres, founder of The Eyres Group LLC, a security consulting firm in Pacific Grove, Calif. Eyres is the former director of security at IBM Corp., and headed the company’s security operations through the 1980s, when the Armonk, N.Y.-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,” said 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 said, noting that big technology companies have procedures to deal with natural disasters. “They can be modified to fit this situation.”

Lynds said 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 said. “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 added.

Meanwhile, major hardware and software vendors that have facilities near the Pentagon and the World Trade Center said they did evacuate some employees and close some offices Tuesday. Sun Microsystems Inc. occupied the 25th and 26th floors in the south tower of the World Trade Center, said 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 said.

“We do not have a figure as far as how many people were there,” Bruce said. “We have been working all day to get in touch with employees.”

One knowledge management firm, called TripleHop Technologies Inc., had its offices on the 53rd floor of One World Trade Center. No officials of the company could be reached.

Compaq Computer Corp. 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 organization 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 said.

The co-founder and chief technology officer of Akamai Technologies Inc., Daniel Lewin was also confirmed to have died on Flight 11. Oracle Corp. 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, Wash.-based software maker Microsoft Corp. said that it kept most of its operations around the world open. It did shut down its New York and Washington D.C. offices, said Jim Desler, a Microsoft spokesman.

“We’re still open,” he said. “But there is heightened awareness here, as with all companies I’m sure.”

Similarly, Lucent Technologies Inc. beefed up security at its facilities, said Mary Lou Ambrus, vice president for external communications and infrastructure. She declined to comment on what measures that may involve.

The telecommunications and networking equipment maker, based in Murray Hill, N.J. said 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 Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based Web hosting company, kept its operations going despite the spike in Internet traffic that flooded its 44 Web hosting facilities around the world, said Melissa Neumann, an Exodus spokeswoman.

“Both Exodus’ operations and all customer operations are continuing unaffected,” she said. The company did allow “noncritical employees” to return to their homes in Washington, D.C. and New York. “Specific to our Internet data centers, we’ve scaled back to skeleton crews,” she added.

Exodus, which hosts Web sites for some large Internet media properties such as the Web operations of USA Today and Yahoo Inc., 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 said.

Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Corp. also kept the majority of its facilities open, the main exception being the company’s Washington office, said spokesman Scott Wyman. “Like many businesses and government offices, it was closed at least for today,” he said. “But the majority of our offices remained open, with heightened security.”

However, Motorola did take down its Web site 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 said. “As expected, Motorola is taking and has taken necessary precautions to safeguard both its employees and facilities.”

Wyman declined to speculate on when the Web site would be back up.

Dell Computer Corp. was also operating normally, company spokesman Mike Maher said. “Everything remains open and operations are continuing to function,” he said. “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 said.

(Additional reporting by Douglas F. Gray and Stephen Lawson in San Francisco.)