South Carolina Offers Details of Data Theft and Warns It Could Happen Elsewhere

By ROBBIE BROWN The New York Times November 20, 2012

ATLANTA — Gov. Nikki R. Haley said on Tuesday that South Carolina officials had not done enough to stop computer hackers who recently stole millions of personal financial records.

A new report shows that outdated computers and security flaws at the state’s Department of Revenue allowed international hackers to steal 3.8 million tax records, the governor said. She announced that the agency’s director, James Etter, would resign at the end of the year.

“Could South Carolina have done a better job? Absolutely,” she said. “We did not do enough.”

Experts say the cyberattack, which resulted in the theft of 3.8 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers, was the largest ever against a state government agency.

On Tuesday, the computer security firm Mandiant released a report with new details about the attack. Hackers broke into the agency’s computer system by sending state employees spam e-mail that contained an embedded link. If employees clicked on the link, software was activated on their computers that stole their user names and passwords, Mandiant found. Using this information, the hackers were able to log in as tax officials and steal the data.


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