Hackers watched Nortel fall apart from up close

For almost ten years, hackers had “widespread access” to Nortel’s corporate network, reports the Wall Street Journal. As early as the year 2000, hackers believed to be in China were able to access technical papers, research-and-development reports, business plans, employee emails and other documents, using passwords stolen from seven of Nortel’s top executives. Brian Shields, a former Nortel employee for 19 years who led an internal investigation into the case, says the hackers “had access to everything.”

Nortel filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the same year Shields sent the investigation’s report to the company’s CEO, Mike Zafirovski, telling him to avoid doing anything on his computer because it was being monitored. Nortel was eventually bought by a group of companies, but Shields says nothing was done to address the problem nor to inform the new buyers of the problems. The news comes a day after U.S. authorities approved the purchase of Nortel’s patent portfolio by a six-company consortium, including Apple and Microsoft, for $4.5 billion (U.S.) while former members of Nortel’s upper echelons are fighting off allegations they falsified financial statements.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.