FBI Opens Probe of China-Based Hackers

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By Ellen Nakashima and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 21, 2008

The FBI has opened a preliminary investigation of a report that China-based hackers have penetrated the e-mail accounts of leaders and members of the Save Darfur Coalition, a national advocacy group pushing to end the six-year-old conflict in Sudan.

The accounts of 10 members were hacked into between early February and last week, and the intruders also gained access to the group's Web server and viewed pages from the inside, the group said yesterday.

The intruders, said coalition spokesman M. Allyn Brooks-LaSure, "seemed intent on subversively monitoring, probing and disrupting coalition activities." He said Web site logs and e-mails showed Internet protocol addresses that were traced to China.

The allegation fits a near decade-old pattern of cyber-espionage and cyber-intimidation by the Chinese government against critics of its human rights practices, experts said. It comes as calls for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics have been mounting since China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters last week.

The coalition, headquartered in Washington, has been a vocal critic of China's support for the Sudanese government and its refusal to allow anyone to pressure Khartoum to end the conflict. The group has urged China -- Sudan's chief diplomatic sponsor, major weapons provider and largest foreign investor and trade partner -- to use its position as a member of the U.N. Security Council to bring peace to the region.

"Someone in Beijing is clearly trying to send us a message," coalition President Jerry Fowler said. "But they're mistaken if they think these attacks will end efforts to bring peace to Darfur."

A senior Chinese official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the allegation is false.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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