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U.S. congressmen say computers compromised by Chinese

China denies compromising computers of two U.S. congressmen who have criticized the country's human rights record.

Two U.S. congressmen who are longtime critics of China's human rights record have accused China of compromising computers that had information related to political dissidents.

Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, says four of his computers were compromised beginning in 2006. New Jersey Republican Chris Smith said two of his computers used for the global human rights subcommittee in the House Foreign Affairs Committee were compromised in December 2006 and March 2007.

"My suspicion is that I was targeted by Chinese sources because of my long history of speaking out about China's abysmal human rights record," according to a transcript of Wolf's statement before the U.S. House on Wednesday.

Wolf requested that House leadership ask the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to brief members of Congress on the threats of laptops, cell phones, and mobile devices when traveling, particularly to countries where access to information is tightly controlled by the government.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang denied the accusations, according to The Associated Press.

"Is there any evidence?...Do we have such advanced technology? Even I don't believe it," Qin said during a regularly scheduled news conference. "I'd like to urge some people in the U.S. not to be paranoid."

The charges follow allegations made late last month that Chinese officials secretly copied the contents of a laptop left unattended when Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez was in Beijing in December. The information from the laptop was allegedly used to try to break into Commerce Department computers.

Chinese hackers are also believed to have been behind several attempts to get information from top government groups around the globe, according to the Virtual Criminology Report (PDF) released by McAfee last year.

In April, the Overseas Security Advisory Council released a China 2008 Crime & Safety Report that said:

"All means of communication--telephones, cellular phones, faxes, e-mail, text messages, etc., are likely monitored. The Chinese government has access to the infrastructure operated by the limited number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and wireless providers operating in China. Wireless access to the Internet in major metropolitan areas is becoming more and more common. As such, the Chinese can more easily access official and personal computers. The Chinese government has publicly declared that it regularly monitors private e-mail and Internet browsing through cooperation with local ISPs."

Larry Wortzel, chair of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, sums it up this way: "There is a high likelihood--virtually 100 percent--that if an individual is of security, political, or business interest to services or high technology industries, their electronics can and will be tampered with or penetrated," USA Today reported.