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updated 4/25/2012 10:52:02 AM ET 2012-04-25T14:52:02

Unknown intruders planted malware on a Nissan computer network and may have pilfered employee login credentials from the Japanese automaker.

The malware was found on Nissan's global information systems network on April 13, Nissan Motor Co. executive vice president Andy Palmer confirmed in an April 20 statement. The malware enabled the intruders to transfer employee login credentials, including user IDs and hashed passwords, to a remote server under their control.

"As a result of our swift and deliberate actions," Nissan administrators secured the breached computer systems  and prevented any customer, employee or program data from being compromised, Palmer said.

He said there is "no indication" any personal information or emails were compromised.

Palmer called the malware a "computer virus," but the behavior he described matches that of a remote-access Trojan that installs "back doors" in computer networks so that cybercriminals and spies can easily get in.

Nissan did not say what information the cybercriminals were after, or which employees' passwords were leaked. Nissan spokesman David Reuter told the New York Times  Nissan had traced the network intrusions back to a specific Internet Protocol address — he did not give its location — but added that "it really does not tell you a whole lot."

"Hackers can bounce things off servers all over the world, so the entry IP address is not necessarily where the hack originates," Reuter said. "The trail goes cold pretty quickly."

Wired magazine and other publications said that the network intruders were after information about the drivetrain of Nissan's Leaf electric car, but Palmer did not mention any specific car model in his statement.

Japanese manufacturers have been frequent targets of Chinese cyberespionage in recent years. Chinese industrial spies often seek information on emerging energy technologies, as a maker of wind-turbine software discovered last year, and remote-access Trojans are among their preferred tools.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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