The theft of tax information from a South Carolina computer system appears to have been the largest cyberattack ever on a state government and has put other states on high alert, reports the New York Times. An international hacker stole 3.6 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers. Tax departments across the U.S. inspecting their own security systems.
“When one employee’s laptop gets stolen, it’s a big deal,” said Verenda Smith of the National Federation of Tax Administrators. “So you can imagine the reverberations when this news came out.” Since 2005, at least 11 state tax agencies have faced security breaches, says the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer rights group. Most were caused by internal accidents, not attacks, and none was on this scale. “As a cyberattack, this appears to be in a league of its own,” said Beth Givens, the group’s director. In a lawsuit, a ex-state Sen. John Hawkins said the state had failed to protect taxpayers and had not reported the attack promptly. The tax agency detected the attack on Oct. 10 and, after notifying federal authorities, alerted the public on Oct. 26.