Chamber’s China Hack: cyber-spies breached business lobby computer systems

Laura Rozen

A sophisticated group of Chinese hackers systematically broke into the computer systems of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in what cyber-security experts described in a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday as a sustained and highly targeted operation involving more than 300 Internet addresses.

The cyber-attack on the American business lobby group, discovered last year, "is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers," the Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Gorman reported.

"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," the Chamber's chief operating officer David Chavern told Gorman. A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce confirmed the Journal report, but declined further comment.

Cyber-security experts enlisted by the Chamber after the breach was discovered "first watched the hackers in action to assess the operation," Gorman reports. They determined the hackers had built multiple entryways into the organization's computer system and were able to search across the Chamber's site by keyword.

What was their target?

Federal law enforcement and cybersecurity investigators ultimately determined that four Chamber employees working on Asia-related policy were the main target of the breach, a person familiar with the case confirmed to Yahoo News on condition of anonymity Wednesday.

Chinese officials adamantly deny any government connection and question that the attack originated in China, Gorman writes.

The business group's decision to bring the case to light comes as American intelligence and defense officials have increasingly gone public with their concern about numerous alleged cyber-attacks on American government agencies and businesses originating from China.

"Hacking is normal business practice in China," said James Lewis, a cyber-security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in an email to Yahoo News Wednesday.

"Chinese hackers go after useful business information," he continued. "The chamber"--representing American corporations around the globe--"would be a good target."

However, many American corporations and agencies are initially slow to recognize the scope of the problem, Lewis said. In addition, he suggested, some "companies don't want to rock the boat with China."

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