Chinese Hackers Infiltrated U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Claims Report

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Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg / Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8, 2010.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that hackers located in China managed to breach the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s information technology infrastructure–no, not recently, but at some point prior to the hack operation’s shutdown in May 2010. The politically conservative-leaning Chamber–not a government agency–is the foremost American lobbying group, representing numerous business and trade groups.

Citing two unidentified sources, the WSJ says the attack involved upwards of 300 Internet addresses, and that hackers had access to “everything stored on [the Chamber’s] systems, including information about its three million members.” The hackers appear to have had access to the Chamber’s systems up to a year prior to their discovery by the F.B.I., an unsettling and embarrassing revelation if true. The hack group’s focus appears to have been a handful of Asian policy employees, from whom six weeks’ worth of email was reportedly stolen.

(MORE: Worst Cyber-Criminals in the World: China and Russia, Claims U.S. Report)

While it’s not clear who, specifically, was responsible for the attack, the Journal says U.S. officials suspect at least one of the perpetrators has connections to the Chinese government. Evidence of the hack in terms of intentional damage done to the computing systems, or indirectly, by way of confidential information gleaned by the hackers, is at this point not forthcoming, and the Journal says Chamber staff report no harm to either it group or members.

China, for its part, is denying it had anything to do with the hack: According to ABC News Radio affiliate KBOI, Gene Shuang, the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, says those accusing it of involvement in the breach “lack proof and evidence.”

MORE: Chinese Hackers Targeting U.S. Satellites?

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham, Google+ or Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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