Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf said today that the FBI is investigating efforts by entities in China to hack into computers at his Capitol Hill office.
"My own suspicion is I was targeted by China because of my long history of speaking out about China's abysmal human rights record," the Republican lawmaker said today.
Officials briefed on the matter said the intrusions at Wolf's office were believed to have occurred two years ago and that sophisticated computer attacks or hackers are easily able to cover their tracks. While the intrusions may have originated from China, U.S. officials say it is often difficult to determine whether they were from government entities or from citizens probing government systems.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the issue.
Wolf has been a longtime critic of human rights abuses in China and has urged President Bush not to attend the Olympics there this summer. Wolf has proposed legislation to bar U.S. government officials from using government funds to attend the Olympic Games.
"Four of the computers in my personal office were compromised by an outside source," Wolf said Wednesday. "In subsequent meetings with House Information Resources and officials from the FBI, I was told not only that other members and at least one committee of the House had been similarly compromised, but that the outside sources responsible for this attack came from within the People's Republic of China."
Computer intrusions from China have dramatically increased in recent years and, according to officials, have included cyber attacks on the Secretary of Defense's e-mail servers in June 2007.
China has officially denied the hacking allegations as groundless.
In December 2007, hackers believed to be in China were behind cyber attacks on three of the U.S. National Laboratories, including Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory and California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In those attacks, hackers used e-mails with attachments sent to thousands of lab employees.
Senior officials, including the Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, recently have cited growing concerns about cyber threats from hackers, terrorists and organized crime. In February, McConnell testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, citing concerns about hacking from China and Russia, saying "We assess that nation-states — which include, of course, Russia and China — long have had the technical capability to target U.S. information systems for intelligence collection. Think of it as data exploitation."
Earlier this year President Bush signed National Security Presidential Directive-54, which directed the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency to establish a government-wide computer security strategy.
At the February hearing, McConnell summed up his concerns, noting the discrepancies in government security and firewalls, and testified, "Our worry right now is the military's probably the best protected. The federal government is not well-protected and the private sector is not well protected."