5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending April 20

Topping this week's roundup of those having a rough week is Cisco, which disclosed that some of its systems installed at customer sites are under attack by Russian hackers.

Also making the list this week are Intel, which shut down its New Devices Group; IBM, whose stock was punished when its financial guidance for the rest of 2018 disappointed Wall Street; VMware, which is in danger of losing its CFO to Uber; and the IRS, whose IT system crashed at a really, really bad time.

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 Five Companies That Came To Win roundup.

Russian Hackers Targeting Cisco Smart Install Protocol, 168,000 Systems Potentially Exposed

Cisco Systems disclosed this week that more than 168,000 of its systems are potentially exposed to attack through the vendor's Cisco Smart Install Client, which the U.S. government said is being targeted by Russian state-sponsored hackers.

In an alert issued Monday the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team said Russian hackers are attacking networking devices, network management protocols and the Cisco Smart Install Client in systems that belong to governments, infrastructure providers and businesses.

Cisco Talos, the company's threat intelligence group, has also warned that the problem with the Cisco Smart Install Client, while "not a vulnerability in the classic sense," can be misused as an attack vector and "should be mitigated immediately."

Cisco Talos said several incidents in multiple countries, including some specifically targeting critical infrastructure, have involved the misuse of the Smart Install protocol.

Intel Axes New Devices Group As Smart Glasses Dreams Fade

It was a tough week for Intel, and particularly for workers in the chipmaker's New Devices Group, after Intel confirmed that it is shutting down the operation after its augmented reality glasses project apparently failed to find outside investors.

The shuttering of the New Devices Group, launched in 2013 as part of a broader company reorganization, follows the 2016 closure of the group's wearables division.

The group's augmented reality glasses project, known as the Vaunt smart glasses, sprang from technology Intel acquired in 2015 when it bought smart glasses maker Recon for $175 million.

IBM's Stock Hammered After Full-Year Guidance Fails To Meet Expectations

IBM's stock plunged more than 7.5 percent Wednesday, despite a healthy first-quarter sales and earnings report, when the company's earnings guidance of $13.80 per share for all of 2018 failed to impress shareholders.

The Investopedia web site said the drop in the company's stock was the biggest in four years. It also showed that Wall Street remains skeptical of IBM's progress in its efforts to reinvent itself.

On Tuesday IBM reported its second consecutive quarterly revenue increase, after five years of revenue declines, and earnings that exceeded Wall Street's expectations.

But the company did not raise its guidance for the rest of the year, citing disappointing sales in the vendor's systems business due to declining storage system sales. Traders punished IBM's stock the next day as a result.

VMware In Danger Of Losing Its CFO To Uber

Reports surfaced this week that ride-sharing company Uber is trying to poach Zane Rowe, VMware's chief financial officer.

Rowe has reportedly emerged as the top candidate to become Uber's CFO and is in advanced talks with the company. The CFO job at Uber is all the more important now as the company prepares to go public.

Rowe was CFO at EMC, VMware's parent company, before replacing Jonathan Chadwick as CFO at VMware in January 2016, prior to Dell's closing its $67 billion acquisition of EMC.

Word of Rowe's potential departure comes as Dell Technologies is considering a plan to go public through a reverse merger with VMware.

IRS IT System Crashes On Tax Day

It would be hard to identify a more "mission-critical" IT system than the computers at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on the day that tax returns are due.

So it's fair to say that the IRS – along with millions of frustrated tax payers – had a rough week when a system failure knocked the IRS's computer systems offline Tuesday, forcing the agency to grant everyone an extra day to file their 2017 tax returns, according to stories published by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

A system-wide computer failure, which began early Tuesday, knocked out the part of the IRS website that taxpayers use to electronically file their returns and make payments directly through their bank accounts, according to the New York Times story.

People trying to file were greeted with the message "This service is currently unavailable" and were advised to "come back on Dec. 31, 9999."

The system was back up and running by 5:00 p.m. Later in the week the IRS said a piece of hardware supporting an "individual master file" – the latter a software system that's nearly 60 years old – experienced a caching issue that caused the system to fail, according to a Nextgov story.