5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending April 1

Topping this week's roundup of companies that had a rough week is MedStar Health, the Washington D.C.-area hospital chain that became the latest victim of a cyberattack, possibly a ransomware case.

Also making the list were struggling startup Virtual Instruments, which is merging with a competitor; Google for an April Fools' joke that backfired; Toshiba for a recall of combustible battery packs; and five electronics manufacturers who must pay fines for a price-fixing scheme.

Not everyone in the IT industry was having a rough go of it this week. For a rundown of companies that made smart decisions, executed savvy strategic moves – or just had good luck – check out this week's 5 Companies That Came To Win roundup.

MedStar Health Hit By Likely Ransomware Attack, Turns Away Patients

Cybercriminals seem to be zeroing in on hospitals and other health-care providers for ransomware attacks. This week MedStar Health's 10 hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area were forced to turn away patients or treat them without important computer records after a crippling virus hit the medical networks' IT systems.

The attack, which began Monday, forced the medical network to shut down its central database, according to a Washington Post story. By Tuesday evening MedStar staff were able to read patient records in the database, but not update them.

MedStar officials refused to confirm that the attack was a case of ransomware, but the Post reported that employees had seen pop-up messages demanding about $19,000 in Bitcoins to provide a digital key to unlock the data. The FBI is investigating the attack.

Struggling Startup Virtual Instruments To Merge With Rival

Virtual Instruments, the startup led by Microsoft Chairman John Thompson (pictured) that fell on hard times in recent months, will merge with Load DynamiX, a storage performance analytics provider that Virtual Instruments competed with.

Under an agreement disclosed this week, the combined companies will take the Virtual Instruments name. Load DynamiX CEO Philippe Vincent will lead the new entity and he told CRN that Thompson would not have a role in the new company or its board of directors.

While the old Virtual Instruments will be no more and Thompson is out, about 110 remaining employees at the company will be moving over to the new company. And the new Virtual Instruments is receiving a venture capital infusion of $20 million.

Google "Mic Drop" Email April Fools' Joke Backfires

Google has turned off the "Mic drop" feature it added to its Gmail service as an April Fools' Day joke Thursday after angry users complained that it got them into trouble.

Google added a "Mic drop" button next to the "Reply" button in Gmail. The button allows users to "have the last word on any email," as Google explained in a blog post, by blocking any responses. The button also adds a GIF image of a Minion dismissively dropping a mic – hence the name.

But some people reported on Google's product forums that when they accidently used the button it caused problems with emails with bosses at work, job applications and other important communications.

"Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year," said Google software engineer Victor-bogdan Anchidin, in a blog post. "Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page."

Toshiba Recalls Combustible Battery Packs

Toshiba has issued a recall notice for more than 100,000 laptop computer battery packs that pose burn and fire hazards, according to a March 30 notice on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

The lithium-ion battery packs, manufactured by Panasonic, can overheat, posing burn and fire hazards to consumers, the notice said. Toshiba has received four reports of the packs overheating and melting, although no injuries have been reported

The battery packs were installed in 39 models of Toshiba Portege, Satellite and Tecra laptops sold between June 2011 and January of this year through Office Depot, Staples and other electronics stores nationwide and through Toshibadirect.com. Some were also sold separately while Toshiba installed some during repairs. All together about 91,000 of the packs were sold in the U.S. and another 10,000 in Canada.

Five Elec tronics Giants To Pay Fines In CRT Price-Fixing Case

Hitachi, LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba agreed this week to pay a total of $4.95 million to settle charges brought by the state of California that they fixed prices on cathode ray tubes used to manufacture computer monitors and televisions between 1995 and 2007.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the settlement Wednesday. "The companies’ price fixing scheme caused damage to California consumers and government entities that overpaid for their televisions and computers," Kamala said in a statement.

California consumers or sole proprietorships that purchased at least one television or computer between 1995 and 2007 can make a claim with a guaranteed minimum check of $25.