WASHINGTON – A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America's top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.
The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers. The complex operation, which involved at least 300 internet addresses, was discovered and quietly shut down in May 2010.
It isn't clear how much of the compromised data was viewed by the hackers. Chamber officials say internal investigators found evidence that hackers had focused on four Chamber employees who worked on Asia policy, and that six weeks of their email had been stolen.
It is possible the hackers had access to the network for more than a year before the breach was uncovered, according to two people familiar with the Chamber's internal investigation.
One of these people said the group behind the break-in is one that U.S. officials suspect of having ties to the Chinese government. The Chamber learned of the break-in when the FBI told the group that servers in China were stealing its information, this person said. The FBI declined to comment on the matter.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Geng Shuang, said cyberattacks are prohibited by Chinese law and China itself is a victim of attacks. He said the allegation that the attack against the Chamber originated in China "lacks proof and evidence and is irresponsible," adding that the hacking issue shouldn't be "politicized."