U.S. officials covered up the Chinese government's attempt to hack computers used by the nation's banking regulator, Republican lawmakers claimed Wednesday. The report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology alleges that the Chinese government was spying on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which stores confidential data on the nation's largest financial institutions, over a three-year period starting in 2010.
"Even the former chairwoman's computer had been hacked by a foreign government, likely the Chinese," the report claims. The intruders were reportedly seeking "economic intelligence," Reuters reported.
FDIC officials allegedly tried to cover up the hack to protect the regulator's incoming chairman. The Senate confirmed Martin Gruenberg in November 2012.
"The committee's interim report sheds light on the FDIC’s lax cyber security efforts," said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. "The FDIC's intent to evade congressional oversight is a serious offense."
The report cites a May 2013 memo from the FDIC inspector general describing an "advanced persistent threat," from the Chinese government. At least 12 computer workstations and 10 servers at the FDIC were affected, the Associated Press reported.
"Americans should be able to trust the agency with their sensitive banking information," Smith said.
The FDIC and China's embassy in Washington did not immediately comment on the report. China promised Washington last year it wouldn't hack computer systems for the purposes of commercial espionage.
News of the FDIC security breach was first made public in May. The U.S. government has also accused China of swiping 21 million background check records from the federal Office of Personnel Management.
"This is potentially devastating from a counterintelligence point of view," Joel Brenner, a former top counterintelligence official for the U.S. government, told the Washington Post at the time. "These forums contain decades of personal information about people with clearances . . . which makes them easier to recruit for foreign espionage on behalf of a foreign country."