Nortel collapse linked to Chinese hackers
Corporate espionage continues against Canadian firms, security expert says
Posted: Feb 15, 2012 5:25 PM ET
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2012 10:44 AM ET
A former systems security adviser to Nortel Networks says he has no doubt that extensive cyberattacks on the technology company contributed to its downfall.
In an interview with the CBC’s As It Happens, Brian Shields, the former senior systems security adviser at Nortel, said spying by hackers allegedly based in China “absolutely” was a “considerable factor.”
“When they see what your business plans are, that's a huge advantage. It's unfair business practices that really bring down a company of this size," Shields said.
Nortel is currently selling off assets in the wake of a 2009 bankruptcy filing.
Shields said both the Canadian and Chinese governments should investigate.
"Your government needs to step in and provide direct assistance with an expert team … [that will] help with the forensics."
He insisted the hackers were based in China, something the Chinese government has rejected.
Earlier this week, its embassy in Canada said "cyberattacks are transnational and anonymous. It is irresponsible to prejudge the origin of attacks without thorough investigation and hard evidence."
The embassy added that China's government "strictly prohibits" hacking and "stands ready to step up international co-operation in this field."
RIM a 'huge target'
“The Chinese government ought to go to that location and get those computers and work with the Canadian government to help solve what happened here," he said.
Shields has alleged that Chinese hackers had unfettered access to the former telecommunications giant as far back as 2000, downloaded business plans, research and development reports, employee emails and other documents.
He maintains that Canadian companies — including Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion — continue to be targets.
"Absolutely. Without a doubt. The questions you've got to ask is, is there something of value? Companies, for example, like RIM [are] a huge target. They ought to worry about this stuff. And anybody else that is in technology or oil exploration. This is economic espionage. It truly is.”
Corporate espionage is a growing problem for North American companies, with the majority of attacks coming from China.
Last November, a group of U.S. analysts said there were as many as 12 different Chinese groups participating in cyberattacks on U.S. companies and government agencies.
During BHP Billiton’s hostile takeover bid for Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp, hackers traced to China targeted Bay Street law firms and other companies to get insider information on the $38-billion corporate takeover.
Those same hackers also targeted Canadian government computers in fall 2010, targeting the Finance Department, the Treasury Board, and Defence Research and Development Canada, a civilian agency of the Department of National Defence.
"It's very personal to me because I'm very sad-hearted about what happened to so many of my friends, to this once great Canadian company,” Shields told As it Happens.
“I was very proud to work there for so many years. I used to say it was the best job in the world.”With files from The Associated Press
Latest Ottawa News Headlines
- Bob Rae stepping down as MP
- Bob Rae, who has represented the Toronto Centre riding for the Liberals since 2008, has told his Liberal colleagues he is stepping down as a Member of Parliament, CBC News has learned. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will address the media live at 11 a.m. ET. more »
- Costume drama film shoots at Upper Canada Village
- A period movie about the founding of an evangelical church is shooting at Upper Canada village in Morrisburg, south of Ottawa. more »
- Minor hockey players reflect on career-ending concussions
- The 2011-12 hockey season was a devastating one for the Ottawa Sting Major AA peewees, with eight of its 17 players suffering concussions. For some, those injuries marked the end of their hockey playing for good. more »
- Tory MP fined $155 for driving through Hill security stop
- Less than a week after Tories attacked NDP Leader Tom Mulcair for failing to stop for the RCMP on Parliament Hill, Conservative MP Eve Adams was caught and fined by security for reportedly talking on her cellphone as she drove through a checkpoint. more »
Top News Headlines
- 30,000 Canadians are homeless every night
- A new national report into homelessness in this country tells a grim story — at least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year and least 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night. more »
- Obesity called a disease by U.S. doctors group
- In order to fight what it described as an "obesity epidemic," the American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease and recommended a number of measures to fight it. more »
- Neil Macdonald: Washington's obsession with leakers
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are just the most prominent targets in an all-out legal and propaganda campaign that America's security apparatus is mounting against leakers everywhere, Neil Macdonald writes. more »
- How open is Ottawa's new 'open data' website?
- Treasury Board President Tony Clement is touting the federal government's revamped data portal as a "new natural resource." But that online window for previously published data arrives at the same time the government faces controversy over just how open it really is. more »
- Gatineau promotes itself with free shuttle service
- Minor hockey players reflect on career-ending concussions
- Mike Fisher, Carrie Underwood selling Ottawa dream home
- Ottawa craft beer breweries fuel Ontario boom
- Sharlene Bosma speaks out about husband's murder
- The Spartan Race in 90 seconds
- Ottawa RedBlacks officially revealed as newest CFL team
- Montreal mayor resigns amid corruption charges
- Woman charged after drink tossed at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford