Nortel, from industrial espionage to bankruptcy

Pierluigi Paganini February 14, 2012

By now the news of successful attacks perpetrated against private companies are no more surprising except sometimes for inefficiency of the implemented security policies . The Wall Street Journal has reported the news that the telecoms company Nortel Networks has been repeatedly exploited by Chinese hackers for a long time, almost a decade.

The former Nortel employee Brian Shields has conducted internal investigation regarding possible security breaches and attacks made to stole sensible information of the company.  Shields has declared that the hackers have stolen the passwords from the company’s top executives, CEO included, and thus have had access to the entire Nortel network and related data. Information relating the private industry of different countries in the world, the developed technologies and strategies pursued have always been targeted by groups of hackers, often hired by governments as in the case of China.

The main problem is that the discovered breach has been conducted during an entire decade with obvious conseguence.  The damage is incalculable if we consider the enormous amount of information stolen through the use of spyware and viruses for the information gathering. Emails, technological solutions, busines reports and other sensitive documents were stolen for years violating the intellectual property of the company.

Shields, who has worked in Nortel for 19 years, declared that in the last decade several times have been discovered suspicius activities related external attacks.
The company discovered for example an hack in 2004, sevel PCs infact were sending sensitive data to an IP address based in China. There is no direct evidence of involvement of the Chinese government, however, China is not new to this kind of operations and modern history has demonstrated it, the cyber space has no borders!

Responsibilities of the company are evident, underestimating the threat ended up compromising its existence.

The scenery is truly disarming, a nightmare but at the same time a warning to any other company. The cyber threat is real and can lead catastrophic consequences. An intense espionage activities conducted for years has effectively exposed all company business to competitors and hostile governments like China.
Consider that the hacking of private corporate networks is often a shortcut to access information of governments that cooperate with it. The risk faced by private industry is huge, at stake is the balance of the global economy.

Let remind you that Nortel filed for bankruptcy in 2009, how many Nortel are over the planet?

We are all potentially at risk and underestimate the threat is a serious mistake. The situation requires careful management of the business presence in the cyber space of every company.
Wake up before it’s too late!

Pierluigi Paganini

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