Wolf: Chinese Hacked Into Computers

Posted June 11, 2008 at 6:29pm

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on Wednesday introduced a resolution requiring House Members to be notified of the dangers of electronic information hacking after announcing that a source within the People’s Republic of China hacked into four of his office computers in August 2006.

At an afternoon press briefing, Wolf said that he believed he was targeted because of his advocacy against human rights abuses in China and that the hackers initially attacked a computer containing information about the whereabouts of Chinese dissidents.

Wolf was joined by Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). Smith announced that his computers were similarly compromised in December 2006 and March 2007 from a Chinese IP address.

Smith, who in the previous Congress chaired the Foreign Affairs subcommittee then known as Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, also attributed the attacks to his involvement with Chinese dissidents.

Smith said he has “every reason” to believe that the Chinese government is responsible for the hacking. “The Internet can be used as a terrorism device,” he said, “and no one has done that more expertly than the Chinese government.”

After the press conference, Smith said it was possible the hackings have occurred with other Members since his computer responded the same way it might for an everyday virus.

“The computers were malfunctioning, and the screen completely froze,” Smith said.

Wolf said he was aware that computers in several other Members’ offices were also compromised, but he declined to give names or even approximate how many computers were involved.

He said the computers in the House Foreign Affairs Committee office were also breached.

Several Members, including Wolf, brought the subject up on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.

“There is a great concern about that,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “This matter is being investigated in a bipartisan way.”

The issue was also put to House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard last week.

In a June 6 letter, House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) told Members that the committee has “directed the CAO to work closely with the FBI and other security agencies to ensure that we adopt all necessary protections for House information.”

He promised that he and ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) “will be working with the CAO to provide improved safeguards in data protection, enhanced user authentication and system patch management.”

Howard Gantman, the spokesman for Senate Rules and Administration Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), said the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms has been asked for a full report on the security of the Senate computers, but the committee is “not immediately aware” of any problems. “It’s clear that we need to maintain a strong vigilance,” Gantman said.