China denies hacking Congressional computers

China on Thursday denied charges by two U.S. congressmen that it had hacked their offices' computers, claiming that it doesn't have technology capable of launching such attacks.

"Is there any evidence? Do we have such advanced technology? Even I don't believe it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Thursday's regularly-scheduled news conference, according to the Associated Press. Translations of the Foreign Ministry's Chinese-language transcript confirmed the AP account.

Qin was responding to allegations Wednesday by Rep. Frank Wolf, (R-Va.), who said that four computers in his office were hacked in August 2006, and that subsequent investigations by both the House and the FBI determined that the attacks originated in the People's Republic of China. "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," Wolf said in a speech from the House floor on Wednesday.

According to other AP reports, computers used by Rep. Chris Smith, (R-N.J.), and the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- Smith is a member -- were also hacked two years ago.

Both Wolf and Smith are frequent critics of China's human rights policies.

In his remarks Thursday, Qin downplayed the charges. "I'd like to urge some people in the U.S. not to be paranoid. They should do more to contribute to mutual understanding, trust and friendship between the U.S. and China," he said.

China regularly denies allegations that it conducts state-support hacking. Last month, for example, Qin characterized reports that the contents of a U.S. government laptop may have been copied during a visit to China by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, as "totally groundless."

Last September, another Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jiang Yu, dismissed claims that Chinese military personnel hacked computers in the Pentagon earlier last year. Like Qin, Jiang dubbed the charges "totally groundless," and said they "reflect a Cold War mentality."

Qin's claim that China doesn't have hacking capability, however, has been disputed by the U.S. Department of Defense. In its annual report to Congress on China's military power last year, the Pentagon said China's military has created a cyberwarfare first-strike capability and has units dedicated to developing viruses for attacking enemy computer networks.

Then, too, Jiang blasted back, saying that the U.S. was "exaggerating China's military strength and expenses out of ulterior motives."

Wolf introduced a resolution Wednesday that called for stronger anti-hacking defenses to protect congressional computers and networks.

"Members need to know how best to protect themselves, their staff and their official business from these threats," said Wolf. "I have experienced this threat first hand, as have others in Congress, and am deeply worried that this institution is not adequately protected."

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