Chinese hackers breach US Chamber of Commerce systems

Business lobbying group says systems were infiltrated by group of China-based hackers who tracked and stole e-mail messages from four employees working on Asia policy, according to report.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the latest victim of online attacks by Chinese hackers after the business lobbying group revealed some of its computer systems were breached, allowing them access to everything stored there including information about its three million members, a report stated.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Wednesday that a group of hackers based out of China had breached the Chamber of Commerce's computer systems, and following internal investigations, had evidence to show the hacks had focused on four of its employees working on Asia policy and stolen six weeks' worth of their e-mails.

It was possible the hackers had access to the networks for more than a year before the breach was discovered, two people familiar with the internal investigation told WSJ.

"What was unusual about it was that this was clearly somebody very sophisticated, who knew exactly who we are and who targeted specific people and used sophisticated tools to try to gather intelligence," said Commerce Chief Operating Officer David Chavern in the report.

The Chamber first discovered about the breach when it was notified by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that servers in China were stealing information from it, it added. Following that, the Chamber of Commerce shut down the intrusion by unplugging and destroying some computers and overhauling its security system. The group timed the security overhaul over a 36-hour time frame during a weekend as the hackers kept regular working hours and were expected to be off-duty, said WSJ.

Chinese representatives denied responsibility of the hacking, noting that such activities are illegal in China, said the report. Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the United States, said the allegation "lacks proof and evidence and is irresponsible" and that the hacking issue should not be "politicized". A Beijing-based foreign ministry spokesperson, Liu Weimin, was reported to say in a daily briefing that he had not heard of the matter and added Chinese law forbids hacking.

The U.S. has hit out at China and its hacking activities recently, with two reports in December alone accusing the Asian economic giant of cyberespionage.

On Dec. 13, the United States said it had tracked down cyberspying groups and collected enough evidence to link them to the Chinese military. Officials then stated they will be confronting their Chinese counterparts regarding these cyberespionage activities. The next day, another report noted U.S. officials as saying Chinese hackers have been identified to be the ones behind attacks that spanned a decade, targeting 760 companies, research universities, Internet service providers and government agencies in its country.