South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said an international hacker is responsible for illegally obtaining 4 million social security numbers from electronically filed state tax returns dating back to 1998.
Defense Department and South Carolina officials are notifying U.S. service members of the recently discovered cyber intrusions, Haley said in an interview with The Pentagon Channel. Defense officials said the intrusions also involve several hundred thousand credit and debit card numbers and other information.
“We know an international hacker came into our system and got an employee to click on something that allowed him to get his password,” Haley said. “From there, he was able to take that password and gather information.”
The cyber intrusions likely took place in August and September, according to South Carolina officials. The system, officials said, is now considered secure. Officials said they believe that the majority of personal data was protected by encryption, but some 16,000 accounts were not.
Emphasizing the state government is doing everything possible to protect civilian and military who live, or once lived, in South Carolina, Haley said anyone who has electronically filed state taxes since 1998 should contact the credit agency Experian through the state’s Department of Revenue website to sign up for a security system provided free of charge.
Through Experian, taxpayers will “immediately get $1 million worth of fraud insurance, fraud monitoring and fraud solutions,” Haley noted. “Whether retroactive or going forward [you’re protected], if you’ve been compromised from this or anything else.”
The governor said DOD, the state, a bankers’ association and LexisNexis are all tracking down service members and their families to advise them that their information might have been compromised.
“It is our responsibility to make sure we reach out to them or advise anybody who is a South Carolina resident to sign up for this fraud protection,” Haley said. “Regardless of whether you’re a part of the breach or not, it’s a good thing to do.”
Today’s a different era, the governor said, “where bad people try to get access to private information in different ways, and people need to be diligent about protecting their private information. Not just because there’s a breach but because we need to watch our checking accounts, credit cards and all of the things we have, because hacking is becoming a part of life.”
South Carolina is “a strong military state, which always thinks of military members first, whether it’s hacking or taking care of family members while [service members] are overseas, and that we’re honoring them the way we’re supposed to,” the governor said.
“While this has been an unfortunate incident in South Carolina,” she said, “we’ll make sure we responsibly take care of them the way they’ve always taken care of the people of our country.”
Haley, a military spouse, says it’s “a necessity” to locate military members and notify them of the cyber intrusions.
Article by Terri Moon Cronk, American Forces Press Service