SKOWHEGAN — U.S. Sen. Angus King came to Skowhegan for a listening tour on issues such as job growth, the opioid crisis and the state’s broadband initiative, and ended up talking about cyberattacks on a local bank.

Skowhegan Savings Bank has been targeted by as many as 1,000 cyberattacks a day, mostly from Russia and the Ukraine, according to information King received during a tour of the bank’s operations center Friday.

“Just now, we were talking about – believe it or not – cyberattacks in Skowhegan, Maine,” King said. “This bank gets between 100 and 1,000 cyberattacks a day – here in Skowhegan. I was talking with the IT professionals about how we prevent that and what we can do about it.

“(The IT leader) said the biggest source of the cyberattacks are Russia and Ukraine. We’re talking hundreds a day trying to get into Skowhegan Savings Bank. Think about our state election system, our voter registration, motor vehicles. We’re much more vulnerable than we realize.”

David Cyr, executive vice president at Skowhegan Savings, said daily cyberattacks happen all over Maine and all over the world.

“There are what I would refer to as cyber-intrusion attempts that go on against all financial institutions in the country on a daily basis,” Cyr said by phone after King’s visit. “It is not a new problem. It is something that the industry continues to fight, and we’ve been extremely successful in preventing any intrusions.”

King said he was assured as much during his tour Friday.

“These folks here are doing a really good job, but all it takes out of those hundreds a day is one to get through and they can steal data,” King said. “Skowhegan Savings Bank looks to me to be ahead of the curve, but this is a national problem and I don’t think the American people are fully aware of how persistent it is. It’s not something you see in the headlines that happened in the 2016 election. This is happening today all over the country, and we’ve got to do a better job in helping our businesses and government protect themselves.”

King said it is also important to find out who is doing the attacks and make sure they “pay the price,” because right now they are getting a free ride.

“We block them, but that’s all that happens,” he said. “We’ve got to search them out and find ways that we can respond so that there’s a disincentive, a deterrent to this kind of activity.”

Felicia Huff, the assistant vice president for information technology who spoke with King on Friday, said part of the bank’s security practice is to hire “hackers” themselves to identify vulnerabilities.

The real hackers can be nation-states, individuals – even organized crime.

King asked Huff what they are looking for.

“They’re looking for data … where the money is,” she said. “They either want to come in to steal our credit card information, Social Security numbers; or if they can’t get that, they’re happy to just get on your computers and use your computer to attack somebody else. They’ve broken into 10 companies before they attack you, so that they’ve hidden themselves.”

Guided Friday by Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Gayne, King visited the downtown campus of the Cornville Regional Charter School and Somerset Public Health, where prevention is the key to the fight against drug addiction.

King also touched on national issues, such as President Trump’s tweets Thursday night saying he was vindicated by the release of memos from former FBI Director James Comey.

King said the issue of collusion and obstruction of justice “is not yet resolved.”

“I’m not prepared to conclude one way or another on that,” he said during a brisk walk. He said he has read the Comey memos, “but I’ve also read a lot of other things because I’m on the Intelligence Committee that’s investigating the whole matter, and we haven’t completed our work, so I’m not prepared to conclude one way or the other.”

In other matters, King spoke about the airstrikes in Syria, saying the United States doesn’t expect to learn quickly how successful they were.

“We won’t know that for six months or a year,” he said. “You’ve got to ask yourself, what was the mission? The mission was to degrade and deter Assad’s chemical weapons capacity. We know we destroyed a few buildings … but we really won’t know if it was successful until they do it again.”

As for Trump’s possible visit to North Korea, King said it’s a “high-stakes deal.”

“I hope it works. I’m in favor of talks. We don’t get anywhere by insulting one another, and I think if it works, I’ll be the first to say congratulations. The real question is like the chemical weapons – how will it look a year from now or two years from now.”

King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was first elected to the Senate in 2012 and is running for re-election in November. He will be challenged on the statewide ballot by successful candidates emerging from the Republican and Democratic primary elections in June.

Before his election to the Senate, King was governor of Maine from 1995 to 2003.

After King’s visit to Skowhegan on Friday, he was scheduled to tour the Cianbro Institute, the new workforce development center at Cianbro Corp. Inc. in Pittsfield.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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