Inside the Chinese military attack on Nortel

It used to be a mind-blowing clue. 

In 2004 Nortel cyber-security consultant Brian Shields investigated a major breach within the telecom massive’s community. On the time Nortel’s fibre optics apparatus used to be the sector’s envy, with 70 in line with cent of all web site visitors operating on Canadian generation. 

And any person sought after Nortel’s secrets and techniques.

Shields discovered that a pc in Shanghai had hacked into the e-mail account of an Ottawa-based Nortel govt. The use of passwords stolen from the manager the intruder downloaded greater than 450 paperwork from “Reside Hyperlink” — a Nortel server used to warehouse delicate highbrow belongings.

Shields quickly discovered the hacker managed the accounts of no less than seven Nortel executives. This used to be no random cybercriminal. However who used to be it?

Shields tested the numerical web addresses of computer systems extracting Nortel information and located that they had been clustered right into a tiny pinprick of our on-line world. He used to be surprised as it gave the look of a room full of internet servers. Whoever used to be in the back of those hackers, Shields believed, gave the impression to regulate China’s web. 

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“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Shields mentioned.

“I knew this couldn’t be taking place by accident.”


China ‘utterly took us down’: former Nortel cyber-security investigator

China ‘utterly took us down’: former Nortel cyber-security investigator


Shields says the Web addresses had been all registered to Shanghai Faxian Corp., an organization without a connection to Nortel that Shields decided used to be a entrance without a actual industry in China. 

Shields noticed some other main clue in Nortel’s logs of community site visitors from Saturday, April 24, 2004. Consistent with Shields, in simply seven hours a Shanghai Faxian deal with downloaded 779 paperwork that day the use of the account of Nortel CEO Frank Dunn. The hack happened 4 days earlier than Dunn used to be fired, amid an investigation of accounting irregularities. To Shields, this urged the Shanghai hackers knew precisely what Nortel’s board of administrators deliberate, and the very best time to extract a large cache of data.

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“Up to now, we now have 1,488 paperwork which have been downloaded,” Shields wrote to Nortel’s control in his “information robbery” investigation document. “China is the supply of all extractions we’re conscious about.”

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For months Shields tracked the hackers. However Nortel’s brass used to be most commonly disinterested within the investigation and did little greater than alternate govt account passwords, Shields says. He says they had been extra curious about year-to-year income and innovation budgets than protective Nortel’s valuable analysis. Mike Zafirovski, Nortel’s CEO from 2005 to 2009, didn’t reply to questions for this tale despatched to his LinkedIn account. Zafirovski mentioned Shields used to be identified to “cry wolf” and control didn’t consider hacking used to be an actual factor, the Wall Side road Magazine reported in 2012.

So the systematic hacking persevered, Shields says. And consequently, Shields says, in 2009 — upon getting hugely underbid on a sequence of contracts via China’s state-champion corporate Huawei — Nortel went bankrupt.

Finally, Shields decided China’s executive won whole regulate of Nortel’s inner techniques. After ten years of cyberattacks they might see the whole thing Nortel used to be doing, he says. The infiltration used to be so insidious, Shields says, that technicians in China may just ship encrypted programs of stolen Nortel information to Shanghai and Beijing, via sending Web instructions to a “backdoor” buried in a Nortel laptop.

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To visualise that during the true international — it might be very similar to a international military establishing a hidden tunnel into Canada’s treasury vault, and marching out unimpeded with gold bars.

And it used to be greater than twist of fate, Shields believes, that upstart Huawei all of sudden changed Nortel as the sector’s dominant web generation supplier.

“You have to have put Steve Jobs in to run Nortel. However if you’re up towards a geographical region, Nortel would have failed, with out Canadian executive intervention,” Shields mentioned.

“Canadians simply don’t notice the level of the Chinese language executive’s involvement on this factor.”


Alliance Canada Hong Kong chief says a Huawei 5G community in Canada would monitor electorate

Alliance Canada Hong Kong chief says a Huawei 5G community in Canada would monitor electorate

Now, greater than 20 years after Nortel used to be first warned of Chinese language Communist Birthday party espionage, Hong Kong Canadians reminiscent of Cherie Wong say that Ottawa’s failure to give protection to Nortel and to promptly bar Huawei from fashionable 5G networks is placing lives in peril.

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Wong, executive-director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella workforce for democracy advocates, says Chinese language dissident teams are already tracked and focused via the Chinese language Communist Birthday party in Canada, thru Chinese language social media apps like WeChat and TikTok. And the specter of Huawei 5G Web in Canada is way worse, she says.

“It’s a rising fear whether or not or no longer Canada is supplied to struggle this degree of interference from the Chinese language Communist Birthday party,” Wong mentioned.

“We’re being threatened and stressed. So giving Huawei regulate of the web way the whole thing we do might be monitored and tracked and given to the Chinese language state.”

Alternatively, Huawei strongly denies profiting from the hacking of Nortel, and says it hasn’t ever been accused of wrongdoing in Canada. The corporate says it complies with Canadian regulation and won’t undercover agent on Canadians. 

Other folks’s Republic of China officers in Canada didn’t reply to detailed questions for this tale.

“Actionable intelligence”

A number of Canadian army data sought via International Information that might make clear stories of big espionage inside of Nortel’s former Ottawa analysis headquarters are these days in a behind schedule vetting disclosure procedure, a Canadian army spokesman knowledgeable International Information. However Brian Shields says he’s sure Ottawa has data that can display Canadians “the reality about what took place to Nortel.”

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One public report that means Ottawa would possibly recognize a connection between China’s assault on Nortel and Huawei’s next upward thrust is a coy observation within the abstract document of an educational convention held via Canadian Safety Intelligence Carrier.

“Ex-Nortel worker Brian Shields, who had led the forensic investigation of the compromise, got here ahead to reveal his studies,” the abstract document says. “Nortel went bankrupt in 2009. May there be a hyperlink between the Nortel breaches and the emerging fortunes of Nortel’s primary China-based competition, Huawei and ZTE?”

The document doesn’t solution that query. 

However a Canadian intelligence knowledgeable with wisdom of investigations at Nortel says Ottawa is aware of precisely what took place within the case.

“The proof that China compromised Nortel is indeniable,” the knowledgeable mentioned. “It used to be being systematically compromised, and the whole thing used to be being taken. The one query is to what extent that brought about Nortel to fall.”

International Information has agreed to not identify the knowledgeable on account of his considerations that China’s executive is concentrated on him because of his probes of continuous cyberattacks.

The knowledgeable mentioned China’s assault on Nortel had many aspects, from systematic hacking and planting of digital insects and spies inside of Nortel amenities, to utilization of Chinese language PhD scholars employed via Nortel to thieve analysis, and makes an attempt to compromise Nortel managers via the use of spies from the Chinese language Communist Birthday party and Other folks’s Liberation Military.

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Many of those allegations are in keeping with a February 2020 U.S. Division of Justice indictment that alleges Huawei used to be concerned with a decades-long conspiracy to thieve generation from a large number of sufferer corporations in efforts to develop its marketplace proportion, the knowledgeable mentioned.

“There have been visits via Nortel executives going to China to be wined and dined,” the knowledgeable mentioned. “It used to be China’s vintage United Entrance statecraft. And the ones executives had been informed in no unsure phrases via their safety, ‘You’re being recruited, and they’ll compromise your computer systems and cell phones.’”

However to Shields and previous CSIS brokers, it gave the impression Nortel control noticed the warnings as exaggerated undercover agent novel plots.

“There used to be detailed actionable intelligence naming folks and techniques and objectives,” the knowledgeable mentioned. “There have been folks that had been stuck, and gadgets discovered, and backdoors discovered and traced again to the Chinese language. And this used to be escalated as much as Nortel leaders. And so they didn’t truly need to see it.”

The knowledgeable mentioned Canadian intelligence sooner or later made the beautiful discovery that the Chinese language Communist Birthday party used to be the use of Chinese language arranged crime gangsters, in assaults on Nortel. 

“We’ve observed arranged crime, business and executive all undercover agent and accumulate on Nortel,” the knowledgeable mentioned.

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“One of the best ways to explain it’s between a geographical region, business and arranged crime, there may be cooperation to the purpose of collaboration and collusion. Spying on Nortel turned into a demand that happy everybody in that neighborhood.” 

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In July — in a case that mirrors such allegations — the FBI accused Chinese language intelligence services and products and arranged crime teams of colluding in cyberattacks concentrated on COVID-19 vaccine analysis and highbrow belongings in many countries, and Chinese language dissidents in Canada.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya — former CSIS Asia-Pacific table leader — showed his former CSIS colleague’s observations relating to China’s assault on Nortel.

Juneau-Katsuya mentioned he first finished a risk review on Nortel within the 1990s, and decided it used to be China’s most sensible company espionage goal. Quickly CSIS known “somewhat a captivating site visitors between Nortel and China,” Juneau-Katsuya says.

 However his signals to Nortel fell on deaf ears, he mentioned.

“What’s lacking within the Nortel tale is exploring the connection that has been flagged about all the ones [Nortel] leaders going to China for many years,” Juneau-Katsuya mentioned. “I’m assured you’ll be able to see relationships the place the United Entrance Paintings Division will seem within the Nortel case.”

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Beijing’s United Entrance — in keeping with a 2020 document from Australian analyst Alex Joske — is the Chinese language Communist Birthday party’s huge political affect and espionage community, which makes use of actors from industry, politics and arranged crime, to focus on Western political and industry leaders and procure highbrow belongings for China.

Juneau-Katsuya suspects the Chinese language Communist Birthday party used the United Entrance to take Nortel down and boosted Huawei into its position via offering the corporate with subsidies and stolen generation. 

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“Nortel is a type of eventualities, the place Canada had the lead across the world, and we let it move. Why? For one, there have been forces throughout the Canadian executive. And Huawei won billions from their executive. So if I make investments billions into you, I will be able to be expecting to regulate that operation. And Huawei’s founder is from the Other folks’s Liberation Military. So he is aware of learn how to observe orders. So I will be able to make you very wealthy, and I will be able to provide you with intelligence make stronger, and I will be able to help in stealing data.”

“On reflection, it’s obviously written at the wall how this took place. There’s sufficient circumstantial proof.”

Juneau-Katsuya’s former CSIS colleague mentioned previous to Nortel’s cave in Ottawa lacked the strategic foresight and capability to struggle China’s infiltration. 

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The RCMP has jurisdictional and technical demanding situations investigating state-sponsored cybercrime, the knowledgeable mentioned, whilst CSIS and the CSE, Canada’s cyberintelligence company, are reluctant to contain themselves in threats towards business. 

“It used to be like a recreation of volleyball when everybody calls the ball however no person is going for it,” the knowledgeable mentioned. “The Nortel instance used to be like we now have a geographical region towards our commercial complicated, and we don’t also have an company mandated to take on it.”

Canada must concentrate to intelligence neighborhood when settling on Huawei

Canada must concentrate to intelligence neighborhood when settling on Huawei

The knowledgeable mentioned Canada is beginning to acknowledge the gravity of state-sponsored assaults on personal business however the executive nonetheless isn’t prosecuting circumstances.

In the meantime, in the USA, the FBI is opening a brand new case towards Chinese language espionage each and every ten hours, in keeping with director Christopher Wray.

It isn’t most effective China concerned with company espionage. Western high-tech corporations have additionally confronted accusations of IP robbery, maximum incessantly in civil courtroom battles. However in keeping with the FBI the vast majority of IP robbery circumstances contain a variety of actors subsidized via the Chinese language Communist Birthday party.

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“It’s the folk of the USA who’re the sufferers of what quantities to Chinese language robbery on a scale so huge that it represents one of the vital greatest transfers of wealth in human historical past,” Wray mentioned in July.

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It continues to be observed what main points the FBI will allege in its IP robbery indictment towards Huawei. And Huawei rejects allegations that it stole generation from corporations in the USA with a purpose to develop its marketplace proportion.

However some former Nortel workers acknowledge the kinds of allegations made to this point.

Shields and previous Nortel company safety worker Mike Kennedy informed International Information a couple of case that happened in the USA from about 2000 to 2003, the similar time that Huawei allegedly reverse-engineered Cisco Web routers in keeping with the FBI indictment.

Some Nortel investigators alleged an organization connected to Huawei had returned dear networking apparatus to a Nortel place of business and requested for money back. Investigators judged the apparatus have been totally disassembled and copied for IP robbery. Kennedy and Shields mentioned a third-party corporate used to be concerned on this alleged reverse-engineering case, which resembles the FBI’s allegations towards Huawei within the Cisco case.

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However Huawei says it hasn’t ever stolen IP from Nortel.

Wrestling with Unit 61398

For Brian Shields, when the U.S. cybersecurity company Mandiant pointed to Unit 61398, it made absolute best sense. 

Unit 61398 is an elite Other folks’s Liberation Military cyberwar unit that operates from a Shanghai compound, the place it’s estimated loads of PLA hackers paintings day and evening, sucking information from Western high-tech industries and political objectives. Consistent with Mandiant, the unit is tasked via the Chinese language Communist Birthday party’s maximum elite leaders to thieve generation for industries selected for enlargement within the celebration’s periodic five-year plans. 

Consistent with Mandiant, 61398 seeks large swathes of highbrow belongings, industry plans, pricing paperwork, and emails from focused organizations’ management. 

And in 2013, Mandiant reported Nortel used to be one among 141 North American entities 61398 attacked. For Shields, 61398’s reported techniques have compatibility the whole thing that he seen concerning the cluster of web addresses in Shanghai.

Some other indisputable fact that turns out greater than coincidental, Shields says, is that Huawei used to be based in 1987 via former PLA engineer Ren Zhengfei. And the Chinese language Communist Birthday party’s five-year plan for 1986 to 1990 used to be to “accelerate the development of the power, communications, telecommunications and uncooked fabrics industries.”

Similarly damning, Shields says, is the highbrow belongings stolen from Nortel in 2004. The listing of data, reviewed via International Information, comprises technique paperwork titled “Street-map values and demanding situations to Nortel,” and “Price Chain Dynamics & Trade Construction.”

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And stolen R&D incorporated paperwork with titles reminiscent of “Photonic Crystals and Massive Scale Integration” and “Switching and Tuning Extremely Built-in Optical Circuits” and “Velocity Knowledge Over Common Cellular Telecommunications Carrier.” 

Those Nortel paperwork relate to its world-leading fibre optics apparatus in 2004, and long run inventions in 3G, 4G and 5G generation that permit extremely detailed media to be despatched international by the use of the web. 

 “Those had been the crown jewels of Nortel R&D,” Shields mentioned. “It used to be the longer term. And the one entity that might get pleasure from the ones types of paperwork being stolen, is a competitor.”

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That’s why Shields says he can’t perceive why Ottawa would even imagine Huawei as a 5G community contender.

“I by no means mentioned Huawei stole our generation, I mentioned the Chinese language executive stole Nortel’s generation,” he mentioned.

“I do know what I discovered, and I do know the discussions I had with sure folks. Don’t Canadians deserve to grasp, too?”

However Huawei has time and again denied any wrongdoing within the Nortel case. Responding to questions from International Information, a spokesman pointed to a 2014 College of Ottawa learn about, which discovered that deficient control selections resulted in Nortel’s downfall, no longer hacking.

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“There were tips within the media that Chinese language or different international espionage brokers penetrated inner Nortel networks and computer systems with a purpose to achieve generation and strategic data and that such motion contributed to the downfall of the corporate,” the College of Ottawa learn about says. “We discovered no proof of this and imagine it not likely.”

In an interview, Peter MacKinnon, one of the vital learn about authors, mentioned any hacking of Nortel used to be inconsequential compared to Nortel control mistakes.

“There’s no means the corporate may just blame its failure on hacking via any celebration,” MacKinnon mentioned. “It’s a timing factor, via pronouncing Huawei has risen whilst Nortel went down. However that isn’t an immediate courting. There’s no causation there.”

For his section, Ren Zhengfei — who didn’t reply to an interview request for this tale — says Huawei didn’t thieve Nortel’s IP, and it used to be the 2000 marketplace crash that in the long run did in Nortel.

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“Sadly, Nortel collapsed since the IT bubble burst,” a transcript of Ren’s 2019 interview with the Globe and Mail posted on Huawei’s site says. 

And there may be considerable proof of dangerous control at Nortel and lingering wounds from the 2000 crash, maximum particularly within the accounting scandals that in the long run resulted in RCMP fees towards Frank Dunn and two different Nortel managers. Dunn and the opposite two had been sooner or later acquitted. Dunn may just no longer be reached for remark in this tale. 

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Astronomically low bids

Commodore Patrick Tyrrell, a retired army intelligence officer and the U.Ok.’s first cyberwarfare leader, says the Chinese language Communist Birthday party has mastered the artwork of waging struggle in our on-line world. Cyberwar technique, Tyrrell says, suits the strategies taught via historic Chinese language army basic Solar Tzu, who mentioned that territory can also be seized with out bloodshed, if the attacker patiently exploits an opponent’s vulnerabilities.

Huawei’s improbable enlargement in 20 years beneath the Chinese language Communist Birthday party and guided via PLA engineer Ren Zhengfei has the glance of a Solar Tzu technique, Tyrrell mentioned.

“The very first thing is, no one does anything else in China with out the approval of the Chinese language Communist Birthday party. And in case you take a look at Ren Zhengfei and the advance of Huawei, it’s somewhat transparent it is a individual with an army imaginative and prescient,” Tyrrell mentioned. “If in case you have just right intelligence, any army guy will need to know the vulnerabilities in a specific corporate.”

“And over time Huawei used to be certainly a hit in with the ability to take over Nortel.”

In Nortel’s case, Tyrrell says Huawei discovered the Canadian massive’s Achilles Heel used to be its massive and dear stock of generation belongings. Usually, Chinese language state-champions can keep afloat so long as Beijing comes to a decision to fund them. So they are able to come up with the money for to burn cash and undercut competition in strategic spaces, Tyrrell says. However Western corporations die when prices upward thrust above gross sales. Through 2008 Nortel used to be in bother and it desperately had to land the 3G Common Cellular Telecommunications wi-fi contract presented in Canada via Telus Corp. and BCE Inc.

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United Kingdom’s first cyberwarfare leader says Canadian sovereignty driving on Huawei 5G determination

United Kingdom’s first cyberwarfare leader says Canadian sovereignty driving on Huawei 5G determination

​However Huawei gained the deal via underbidding Nortel an estimated 40 in line with cent. Telus and BCE didn’t reply to questions from International Information for this tale.

“You move in and ensure Nortel can’t get the cash to stay this behemoth afloat,” Tyrrell mentioned. “All at once it collapses, and coffee and behold you’ll be able to move select the bits you wish to have.”

A equivalent case happened in 2005, Tyrrell says, when Huawei beat out Nortel and U.Ok. telecom Marconi to build a part of a $17-billion fibre optic community for British Telecom (BT).

Huawei underbid the following lowest bidder Marconi via $US 1 billion — a couple of 40 in line with cent cut price — Tyrrell mentioned. And twelve months later, Marconi collapsed. 

“All at once this corporate is available in with this astronomically low bid. And they might even have identified if an organization must get this bid to actually live to tell the tale,” Tyrrell mentioned. “That could be a robust piece of knowledge.”

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BT didn’t reply to questions for this tale. However its community care for Huawei used to be criticized in a 2013 U.Ok. parliament intelligence and safety committee document.

The document summarized allegations made extensively towards Huawei via corporations reminiscent of Cisco and Motorola. 

“It’s alleged that Huawei used to be in a position to win many contracts via stealing generation from its competitors after which undercutting them on worth,” the document says. “However Huawei strenuously denies that it has direct hyperlinks with the Chinese language Govt or army, claiming that it receives no monetary make stronger from the Chinese language Govt.”

In accordance with questions on Huawei’s investment, a spokesman despatched International Information a YouTube video produced via Huawei which says the corporate receives a minimum quantity of R&D investment from the Chinese language executive.

“Huawei is time and again accused of being owned or funded via the Chinese language executive,” the connected video claims. “Fact is, Huawei is a personal corporate and is 100 in line with cent employee-owned.”

At the BT deal, via 2006, safety considerations had been found out on apparatus put in via Huawei, the document says. And in 2008 British intelligence warned “theoretically, the Chinese language State might be able to exploit any vulnerabilities in Huawei’s apparatus with a purpose to acquire some get right of entry to to the BT community.”

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After all, in 2011, the U.Ok. executive briefed Huawei in China “on problems found out with its apparatus” the document says, and Huawei promised to deal with apparatus issues.

Huawei didn’t reply to a query from International Information, in regards to the alleged apparatus issues.

Brian Shields and Patrick Tyrrell consider those types of community vulnerabilities can’t be mitigated since the Chinese language Communist Birthday party in the long run controls Chinese language tech corporations.

And Tyrrell says not anything lower than Canada’s sovereignty is driving on Ottawa’s pending 5G determination.  

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“No matter occurs for your data grid is understood in Beijing earlier than it’s identified in Ottawa in a Huawei 5G community,” Tyrrell mentioned.

“What that suggests is the Canadian executive doesn’t have regulate of its future.”

The U.S. executive has come to a equivalent conclusion.

This 12 months former U.S. nationwide safety adviser H.R. McMaster asserted that during 2019, “a sequence of investigations published incontrovertible proof of the grave national-security threat related to a big selection of Huawei’s telecommunications apparatus.”

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“Many Huawei employees are concurrently hired via China’s Ministry of State Safety and the intelligence arm of the Other folks’s Liberation Military,” McMaster wrote in The Atlantic. “Huawei technicians have used intercepted cellular information to assist autocratic leaders in Africa undercover agent on, find, and silence political warring parties.”

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