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Did Chinese officials copy U.S. government laptop data and use it in hack?

The Associated Press cites unidentified sources in reporting that U.S. officials are looking into allegations that Chinese officials copied data from a Commerce Department laptop and used it to attack U.S. computers.

The U.S. government is looking into allegations that Chinese officials snagged a laptop left unattended by a top U.S. official there, copied the data and then used it to try to hack into U.S. government computers, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The incident is alleged to have happened during Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez's trip to Beijing in December, unidentified sources told the AP. Gutierrez told the wire service he couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation.

Since then, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, known as US-CERT, responded to computer network break-ins at least three times, the report says.

"The Pentagon, State Department and Commerce Department all have been victimized by widespread computer intrusions blamed on China since July 2006," with the Commerce Department even having to unplug itself from the Internet, as a result, the article says.