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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wolf says office computers hacked by Chinese sources over past 2 year

Examiner: WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Rep. Frank Wolf and another congressman said Wednesday their office computers containing sensitive information about political dissidents were invaded by Chinese-based hackers over the past two years.

Wolf, R-Va., said he was told by House investigators and the FBI that the computers of four of his staffers were hacked into in August 2006. Wolf was told that similar hacks took place at other members’ offices and committees.

The FBI and the White House declined to comment.

He said the machines contained data on dissidents and human rights activists across the world, and that he had been asked to stay silent on the matter.

“There have been a lot of people that have not wanted me to say this,” Wolf said at a Capitol Hill press conference. “This has been in the works for a while.”

Shortly after the announcement, the House Foreign Affairs Committee disclosed one of its computers was also struck by a hacker working from China in 2006.

Wolf was joined at the press conference by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., who said his computers for a human rights subcommittee were infected in December 2006 and March 2007 with a virus “intended to take control of the computers,” which authorities traced back to a Chinese IP address.

Neither Wolf nor Smith said they had evidence pinning the attacks directly on the Chinese government, though they suggested heavily that such a connection may exist. Nor would they name who asked for the news of the data compromise to be withheld, or say what other offices were invaded.

“I have every reason to believe it’s the government,” said Smith. “Given their obsession with control, given their obsession with using the Internet to find and incarcerate dissidents in country, and to follow the Falun Gong and other dissidents abroad.”

Falun Gong is a religious group suppressed by the Chinese government.

The announcement comes on the heals of news that the communist government may have copied information from a laptop during U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez’s visit to China, and then sought to hack the department’s computers.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy disputed the implication that the Chinese government was involved in the hacks, which he called “unwarranted and irresponsible allegations.”

“On the subject of computer network attack or hacking activities, we have made it clear repeatedly that China has never engaged in such activities,” said spokesman Wang Bao Dong. “China itself is the victim of international hacking activities.”

Wolf, a longtime critic of the Chinese government, brought a resolution to the House floor on Wednesday urging the Congress to work with the FBI to ensure members, committees and offices known how to protect themselves from electronic attacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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