U.S. Congressmen accuse China of hacking their computers

Two U.S. Congressmen on Wednesday accused China of hacking their office computers, possibly compromising information on Chinese dissidents, the Congressmen and news reports said.

Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf said from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, "in August 2006, four of the computers in my personal office were compromised by an outside source. This source first hacked into the computer of my foreign policy and human rights staff person, then the computers of my chief of staff, my legislative director, and my judiciary staff person.  On these computers was information about all of the casework I have done on behalf of political dissidents and human rights activists around the world."

"In subsequent meetings with House Information Resources and FBI officials, it was revealed that the outside sources responsible for this attack came from within the People's Republic of China. These cyber attacks permitted the source to probe our computers to evaluate our system's defenses, and to view and copy information.  My suspicion is that I was targeted by Chinese sources because of my long history of speaking out about China's abysmal human rights record," he continued, according to a transcript on Wolf's Web site.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing's Public Affairs office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson's phone at China's Foreign Ministry in Beijing rang unanswered.

New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith and the House Foreign Affairs Committee also had their computers targeted during the same time, the Associated Press reported Wednesday (Compare Patch and Vulnerability Management products).

Information security issues relating to China continue to rise. In late May, the contents of a U.S. government laptop may have been copied during a visit to China by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, a matter which is still under investigation.

In early May, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback alleged that the Chinese government had asked major hotel chains to censor their Internet traffic during the 2008 Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing August 8 to 24. Brownback did not name the hotels involved, but condemned China's human rights record.

Security worries and politics also played a role in the unsuccessful purchase of 3Com by a group that included Bain Capital Partners and China's Huawei Technologies, with the latter taking 16.5% of the company. However, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, under the U.S. Treasury Department, refused to approve the deal, mostly due to national security concerns over 3Com products used by the U.S. Department of Defense and the access that Huawei would then have to those products' specifications.

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