Conway company reveals mystery about data secretly transmitted overseas

An Horry County manufacturer is revealing details of a mystery that has company officials stumped.

Their account of what happened might make you want to take a closer look at anything you own that's connected to the Internet.

A video camera that was inside the Metglas Inc. plant in Conway was found to be sending a signal to the other side of the world, unknown to Metglas officials.

What kind of data the camera was sending and why it was being sent are still unknown to company officials.

The mystery began a few years ago, when Metglas installed the camera aimed at a utility door inside the plant to monitor activity company officials wanted to keep an eye on.

Soon after, they were shocked to discover that data coming from something unknown inside the plant was going out over the Internet to somewhere unknown.

"We worked at it for three or four weeks before we actually isolated it to the camera," said Metglas IT manager Mary Beth Smith.

Smith said one official found that the data was encrypted in various languages.

"He identified Chinese, Japanese, Korean and I think Vietnamese, if I remember right. That's why I know it was encrypted."

Metglas makes an amorphous metal used in items like electrical transformers.

It's a high tech product made by a classified process that the rest of the world would love to discover.

So when Metglas officials discovered the mysterious signal being sent to Asia, they took it very seriously.

"I called in the FBI and they came in and I gave them all the information that they could possibly ask for," Smith said.

After a year of investigation, Smith says the FBI and company officials concluded the camera was not transmitting reams of secret information about Metglas.

They were also confident the company's internal network had not been breached.

Still, Metglas learned some hard lessons from the experience.

"Oh, so many things," Smith laughs.

Smith says she now knows that nothing connected to the Internet is safe.

"Any chip made outside the United States and maybe some inside the United States can be behaving and you won't see it, there's no way to track it and you wouldn't know what it's doing."

Smith says the camera is long gone now and Metglas officials today are more careful about anything they allow inside the plant.

Smith holds her hand high above her head: "My paranoia is here and growing."

Metglas has been in Conway since the 1980s. Today, it employs about 200 people.