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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Chinese hackers scanned Alaska computers for vulnerabilities before, during and after a state trade mission to the country, according to a report by a U.S. cybersecurity firm.

The firm Recorded Future disclosed the finding in a report on the activities of hackers based at Tsinghua University in China, the Juneau Empire reported Thursday.

“We assess with medium confidence that the network reconnaissance activities we uncovered were conducted by Chinese state-sponsored actors in support of China’s economic development goals,” the report concluded.

An emailed request seeking comment to a media inquiries address at the Republic of China embassy in Washington, D.C. was not immediately returned.

The activity began in March when Gov. Bill Walker announced that he would lead the delegation intended to boost Chinese interest in Alaska products and relationships. Between early April and late June, IP addresses associated with the university made more than 1 million connections to networks in Alaska, according to Recorded Future, a firm based in Somerville, Massachusetts.

“The network reconnaissance activity against Alaskan organizations increased following the governor of Alaska’s trade delegation trip to China in late May,” the report said. “Organizations targeted by the reconnaissance activity were in industries at the heart of the trade discussions, such as oil and gas.”

The hackers targeted computer systems belonging to Alaska Communications, the state Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Power and Telephone, TelAlaska, and the governor’s office, according to the report. It does not appear that hackers compromised or accessed information from any Alaska computers.

“The spike in scanning activity at the conclusion of trade discussions on related topics indicates that the activity was likely an attempt to gain insight into the Alaskan perspective on the trip and strategic advantage in the post-visit negotiations,” the report stated.

Alaska Communications spokeswoman Heather Cavanaugh told the Anchorage Daily News by email that the company is not willing to discuss the incident but is “serious about cyber security.”

“We do not, however, respond with information that could be used by malicious actors to gauge the efficacy of reconnaissance and exploitation attempts,” she wrote.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire,