For nearly a decade, hackers enjoyed widespread access to the corporate computer network of Nortel Networks
Ltd., a once-giant telecommunications firm now fallen on hard times.
Using seven passwords stolen from top Nortel executives, including the chief executive, the hackers—who appeared to be working in China—penetrated Nortel’s computers at least as far back as 2000 and over the years downloaded technical papers, research-and-development reports, business plans, employee emails and other documents, according to Brian Shields, a former 19-year Nortel veteran who led an internal investigation.
The hackers also hid spying software so deeply within some employees’ computers that it took investigators years to realize the pervasiveness of the problem, according to Mr. Shields and Nortel documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. They “had access to everything,” Mr. Shields said of the hackers. “They had plenty of time. All they had to do was figure out what they wanted.”