Fallen telecommunications giant Nortel was the subject of international industrial espionage for more than a decade, according to reports obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
Hackers thought to be based out of China downloaded research and development reports, business plans and employee emails from Nortel’s corporate computer network since 2000.
The corporation, now in the process of selling itself off bit by bit after filing for bankruptcy in 2009, was breached by the hackers when seven passwords of top Nortel executives were stolen.
The hackers also placed spyware so deep into some employee computers it escaped detection. The Journal reports that some of those computers may have been moved to the companies that bought up Nortel assets.
Parts of the company now belong to Avaya Inc., Ciena Corp, Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson and Genband Corp.
Nortel did not take the threat of a security breach seriously, said Brian Shields, a former senior advisor in security systems at Nortel who conducted an internal investigation into the matter.
Shields told the Journal that Nortel that the hackers “had access to everything… They had plenty of time. All they had to do was figure out what they wanted.”
His report says Nortel also failed to determine whether its products were compromised by hackers, and did not disclose the security breach to investors or the buyers snapping up parts of the firm.