Cyber-security firm says Alaska was targeted by Chinese cyber spies

Tiananmen Square at night on May 24, 2018, in Beijing, China. A cyber-security firm is reporting that Alaska was targeted by hackers using computers in China before and after a trade mission in May. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

A cyber-security firm is reporting that Alaska was targeted by hackers using computers in China.

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The company, Recorded Future, documents repeated attempts to connect to several networks in Alaska before and after the state sent a trade delegation to China in May.

According to the report, the scanning activity spiked when Gov. Bill Walker announced the visit to China in March and again just after the delegation left the country.

The data shows that Alaska Communications Systems Group, or ACS, and Alaska Power and Telephone Company were targeted in addition to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

There’s evidence that the scanning came from internet connections registered to Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Walker’s administration is pushing back against the report.

Press Secretary Austin Baird said there was web traffic targeting the state but no hack actually happened.

“The state of Alaska like most state governments, like most businesses, like most companies that do business online or do business internationally, there’s routinely anonymous activity on the perimeter networks that amounts to someone checking if the door is locked,” Baird said.

Baird said the state does not believe that China was the original source of the scanning activity. He said the state contacted law enforcement as a precautionary measure but doesn’t plan to do any further investigation into the source of the web traffic.

Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk , she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.

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