Once upon a time, there was a giant Canadian telecommunications firm, called Nortel Networks. Nortel was a pioneering maker of computerized switches and telecom gear powering phone and internet networks. However, there was an area, very close to their profile, that this company was ignoring for a decade: internet security.
This ignorance came at a price: Chinese hackers stole seven passwords from top executives and enjoyed unrestricted access to the company’s classified networks, including technical papers, business plans, R&D reports, emails and other sensitive documents. A US intelligence report concluded that Chinese government-affiliated and private sector hackers are the world’s most active and persistent industrial spies.
Long story short, using the sensitive information obtained from secret networks, Nortel was underbid in China and global markets by Chinese competitors, and went bankrupt in 2009, selling parts of its business to other companies such as Ericsson and Avaya.
And now, according to Forbes, Lenovo Group has signed an agreement with BlackBerry to buy the struggling business. What a coincidence: Lenovo is a Chinese company, partially owned by the government through the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Lenovo is a Canadian telecommunications firm. The Pentagon believes that BlackBerry is the only phone the Chinese have not yet hacked, and it is unlikely they have been able to penetrate the company’s networks.
If this is the case, asks the writer of Forbes, is Lenovo bidding for BlackBerry to destroy it? If they have been unsuccessful through the back door, will they try the front? The Canadian government is obviously strongly against the acquisition and will try their best to block the deal. But, even if the merger fails, the Chinese government will have an excuse to go through BlackBerry’s books to learn as much about the company as possible.
And then, concludes the report, Chinese companies – such as Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE – will start to underbid BlackBerry and the Canadian giant’s fate will be the same as Nortel’s.