Today: Apple (AAPL) follows Facebook and Twitter in announcing an attack on its employees' computers, while another corporate Twitter account is taken over. Also: Google (GOOG) stock surpasses $800 for the first time, Wall Street gains after long weekend.
Apple admits to largest successful attack in history as hacks spread
The word of the day in Silicon Valley was "security." as tech's biggest name joined some of its most visible neighbors in announcing that employees' computers had been compromised.
Apple admitted in a statement Tuesday that a vulnerability in Oracle's (ORCL) Java software allowed malicious software to invade employees' computers after they visited an infected website. The attack mirrored Facebook's announcement Friday, when the Menlo Park social network said several of its engineers were exposed to malware through another site; Twitter announced a similar hack the week before. The technology blog AllThingsD reported that all three companies were likely infected by the same site, which is widely used by engineers working on mobile applications.
"Apple has identified malware which infected a limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers. The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers ... We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple," the statement said.
Apple's involvement is highly significant because Macs have had fewer problems with malware in the past than machines running Microsoft's Windows operating system, with Tuesday's announcement showing a shift in targets due to the popularity of Apple machines in the past few years.
"This is the first really big attack on Macs," an anonymous source who originally verified the attack to Reuters said. "Apple has more on its hands than the attack on itself."
A more visible hack occurred Tuesday on Twitter, where Jeep's corporate account was hacked and tweets were sent out claiming that the Chrysler-owned car company was purchased by Cadillac, along with more immature and vulgar tweets. The Jeep account was taken over just two days after a similar situation with Burger King's account, which was hacked on Sunday and sent out a series of obscene tweets.
"We have no idea who did it," Ed Garsten, head of Chrysler's digital media department, told Reuters. "I understand Twitter was especially prepared to deal with today's situation because they just went through the process with Burger King."
While the takeover of Twitter accounts is a smaller problem than malware attacks on corporate computers -- which can lead to hackers obtaining information on customers, such as the 250,000 user names and passwords accessed in the malware account on the Twitter -- the two incidents continue a pattern of cybersecurity issues that led to a mention in President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last week.
The stakes reached even higher Tuesday morning, when a report from computer security firm Mandiant said that attacks on more than 100 U.S. companies in the past few years were the work of a unit within the Chinese military.
"It is time to acknowledge the threat is originating in China, and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security professionals to combat that threat effectively," the report said.
Chinese officials denied the report, but the country was already believed to be the epicenter of much of the cyber espionage in the world, with Google Chairman Eric Schmidt even calling the country the "most sophisticated and prolific" cyberthief threatening foreign companies in a new book.
The most recent attacks on Apple, Facebook and Twitter appear to be based in Eastern Europe, however, showing that fighting off online attacks cannot focus on one country or entity.
Apple stock dropped 17 cents Tuesday to close at $459.99, as the company received some bad news on a lawsuit from activist investor David Einhorn. Facebook gained 2.2 percent in the first trading since the company announced its hacking attack after trading ended Friday.
Google shares hit yet more all-time highs, but is severe dip on horizon?
Google's stock price cracked the $800 level for the first time Tuesday, as the Mountain View company's shares continued to set record highs even as Apple shares continued to sit more than 30 percent lower than their peak price.
"All that Apple money had to go somewhere," BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis cracked to the Associated Press.
Standard & Poor's Capital IQ analyst Scott Kessler more seriously said that investors looking to get out of Apple due to the belief that it had reached the apex of its popularity were likely funneling money into Google, which makes the largest mobile competitor to Apple's iOS mobile operating system, Android.
"If you are looking at Apple's peers in its space and see who seems to be really doing well right now, it makes a lot of sense to invest in Google now," Kessler told AP.
There is a good chance Google shares could fall, however, and they could even be cut in half. The company announced last year that it planned to split its stock, which would double the number of shares but halve the price; shareholders sued Google, claiming that the move would give co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page too much control of the search giant, and the plan is on hold until that lawsuit is settled.
Gillis also pointed out that Google stock has historically ranged about 10 percent from peak price to trough in the first quarter of the calendar year, so it could descend rapidly from here.
With the possibility of a split ahead, Google market capitalization is more important right now, and the company has become the third most valuable company in the United States by that measure, only trailing Apple and Exxon. Individual shares of Google closed with a gain of 1.8 percent at $806.85 Tuesday.
Solar companies and Tesla rise on a strong day for Wall Street
Google wasn't the only stock to enjoy a strong trading session following Monday's vacation for traders, as all three major U.S. stock indexes increased on the day and the SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies outperformed them all with a gain of 0.8 percent.
Solar stocks continued last week's shocking rise Tuesday, with San Jose-based SunPower (SPWRA) increasing 16.9 percent to $13.39 to reach yet more 52-week highs. Larger rival First Solar gained 6 percent, and San Mateo solar installer SolarCity rose 4.2 percent to $18.51, the highest closing price in the company's short history on the public market.
SolarCity Chairman Elon Musk's other Silicon Valley company, electric car company Tesla, gained 6.1 percent Tuesday after a group of fans recreated the now-legendary Model S road trip by New York Times reviewer John Broder and the public editor of the Times officially responded to CEO Musk's negative comments on the review. The Palo Alto company is scheduled to release earnings after trading ends Wednesday, which should give an indication of whether manufacturing of the Model S has caught up with expectations.
Silicon Valley tech stocks
Up: SunPower, Tesla, SolarCity, Advanced Micro Devices, Netflix (NFLX), Electronic Arts (ERTS), Ruckus, Cisco (CSCO), Facebook, Workday, Juniper, Google, Oracle, Gilead, Zynga, Yahoo (YHOO), Applied Materials, Adobe
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 21.56, or 0.68 percent, to 3,213.59
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 53.91, or 0.39 percent, to 14,035.67
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 11.15, or 0.73 percent, to 1,530.94
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.