You have to wonder if Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) feels some kind of reprieve. If misery loves company, then the world's most famous sufferer of hacker-induced headaches might breathe a sigh of relief at last week's unfortunate news that Cisco's (NASDAQ:CSCO) Internetwork Operating System (IOS) version 12.3 may have been obtained by hackers who compromised the corporation's security.

Clearly, the whole Internet security game isn't as easy as we might like. And if the theft is confirmed by Cisco, it will be a real bummer for a firm that hawks its "Self-defending Networks" so prominently on its home page. The news was broken when a Russian Website,, noticed Internet messages bragging of the theft, along with submitted portions of the code that look authentic. A Cisco spokesman told CNET Networks' (NASDAQ:CNET) CNET that the company was investigating the matter.

If it turns out to be a real theft, the story could turn out to be more than just a massive public-relations headache. The software runs a variety of Cisco switches and routers, which are, in turn, largely responsible -- up to 90%, according to some estimates -- for running a little thing we know as the Internet.

It's too early to start the panic, as it still isn't clear whether the reported theft is actual or just an elaborate hoax. Even if the code were real, ostensible vulnerabilities don't always yield further security breaches, and software patches, though tedious, should remedy any problems.

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Fool contributor Seth Jayson owns no stake in any company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.