SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan Savings Bank has been the target of daily cyber attacks from outside of the country — as many as 1,000 per day — U.S. Sen. Angus King said he was told following a tour Friday of the bank’s operations center.

The attacks are coming from Russia and Ukraine, the independent senator from Maine said. A bank vice president said later Friday that Skowhegan Savings is not alone in the global fight for cyber security, dating back several years.

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

King’s remarks came Friday during a “listening” tour of downtown Skowhegan, during which the focus was job growth, rural economic development, the opioid crisis and the state’s broadband initiative.

“I was just talking with the IT leader here at the Skowhegan Savings Bank, and she said the biggest source of the cyber attacks are Russia and Ukraine,” King said. “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 cyber attacks 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 Friday following 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 bank’s assistant vice president for information technology who spoke with King Friday, said part of their security practice is to hire “hackers” themselves to identify vulnerabilities.

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

So what are they looking for, King asked Huff?

“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 Donald Trump’s Tweets Thursday night saying he was vindicated by the release of memos from former FBI Director James Comey.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION,” the president Tweeted at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday. “Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?”

In response, 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 air strikes in Syria, saying the United States may not know how successful they were for months.

“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 President 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 senator from Maine 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.

Prior to his election to the Senate, King served as governor of Maine from 1995 to 2003

Following King’s visit to Skowhegan Friday, he was scheduled to tour the Cianbro Institute, the new workforce development center at Cianbro Corporation Inc. in Pittsfield, to discuss economic development strategies that can strengthen the workforce and create jobs in rural Maine.

Opened in August 2017, the Cianbro Institute is an educational facility that aims to develop the skills of craftsmen and women in the construction industry and increase the number of highly-qualified construction professionals in Maine.

King has made workforce development one of his top priorities and outlined strategies to modernize and expand Maine’s workforce in the economic agenda he introduced in April 2017.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow