02:42 - Source: CNN
New York Times says it was hacked

Story highlights

NEW: The Wall Street Journal says Chinese hackers entered its computer system too

Chinese defense ministry says the military has never supported hackers

NYT attacks reportedly began during a controversial investigation in China

Hackers obtained the company passwords of every Times employee

The New York Times says Chinese hackers have carried out sustained attacks on its computer systems, breaking in and stealing the passwords of high-profile reporters and other staff members.

According to The Times, one of the biggest and most respected U.S. newspapers, the cyberassaults took place over the past four months, beginning during an investigation by the newspaper into the wealth reportedly accumulated by relatives of the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that its computer systems also had been infiltrated by Chinese hackers. The hackers were monitoring the newspaper’s China coverage, according to a written statement from Paula Keve, chief communications officer for parent company Dow Jones & Co.

“Evidence shows that infiltration efforts target the monitoring of the Journal’s coverage of China, and are not an attempt to gain commercial advantage or to misappropriate customer information,” the statement read, according to The Journal.

The Times’s reports on Wen’s family members, alleging they had amassed financial holdings worth billions of dollars through business transactions, infuriated Chinese authorities, who responded by blocking access to The Times’ website in mainland China.

The Times said in an extensive article dated Wednesday that it had worked with computer security experts to monitor, study and then eject the attackers. It said that by following their movements, it aimed to “erect better defenses to block them” in the future.

The newspaper said that the security experts it used to counter the attacks had accumulated “digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times’s network.”

Asked about The Times’s allegations on Thursday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that “all such alleged attacks are groundless, irresponsible accusations lacking solid proof or reliable research results.”

China has been the victim of cyberattacks and “has laws and regulations prohibiting such actions,” the spokesman, Hong Lei, said at a regular news briefing.

A separate statement from the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said the country’s military “has never supported any hacker activities.”

The U.S. State Department said that The Times’s experience w