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To the people of S.C.,
A lot can happen in a year. That’s a good thing since we have the potential to create a brighter future for South Carolina next year. But it’s much harder to swallow when we reflect on all the mistakes, problems and risks that have hurt our people just in the one year since the Department of Revenue (DOR) hacking scandal.
One year ago, after 16 days of covering up the biggest breach of a state government in history, Gov. Nikki Haley finally informed the people of South Carolina that the DOR had allowed its most personal information to be hacked and they were at great risk for identity theft.
One year ago, Haley announced her decision to award a $12 million no-bid contract to Experian, a company that just months prior had been duped into selling personal data to a Vietnamese identity theft organization resulting in an investigation by the Secret Service.
One year ago, life as we knew it changed for millions of people and our children because the elected leader of our state government and her administration let us down. Yet one year ago today, Haley stood before the people of the state and said no one should be disciplined for this massive breach of public trust and failure of state government.
It’s been a long year since then, full of much worry for families and businesses at risk.
It’s been a year of changing stories and incomplete facts from the Haley administration, whose approach to this day is still so cloaked in secrecy that the people of South Carolina are not even allowed to read the full report of just what went wrong.
But there is hope for the future, because we can change the way South Carolina does business together, with new leadership and real accountability.
One year later, here is what we now know:
u The hacking was a horrible and preventable disgrace. First, under Nikki Haley, the S.C. DOR failed to enroll in the most basic protection services available that act as a first step in protection for other agencies and states around the nation. Second, a key cyber security director position at the DOR was left vacant for a year while Haley rewarded her campaign staff with other jobs they had little experience for in the administration. Third, the person in the cyber security position had quit prior to the hacking due to frustration that his repeated warnings about the vulnerability of the DOR went unheeded by Haley and her closest advisers.
u The hacking was a tragedy, and it was preventable. South Carolina could have been better prepared to withstand the hacking attempts, like other states, and not become a target because of the major holes in our cyber security that were ignored by the Haley administration despite multiple warnings.
u By covering-up the hacking for 16 days, Haley failed the test of leadership. After learning that millions of people in our state had been exposed to great risk under her watch, Haley’s first instinct was to cover it up. She waited more than two weeks, hired a lawyer, lined up her public relations firm, and covered her tail before deciding it was the right time to let the people she was elected to serve know they were at risk. Then, when she did finally break the news, the story was ever-changing as she flip-flopped back and forth trying to paint a rosier picture. First she said nothing could have been done to prevent it. That wasn’t true. Then she said that no businesses were affected. That wasn’t true. Then she said no children were affected, that wasn’t true.
u Hacking victims continue to suffer because of the poor choices by Haley and her administration. Haley hand-picked Experian and awarded it a $12 million no-bid contract to monitor credit reports and send you an email once your identity has been stolen. One year later, Experian decided not to continue its contract with the state and instead began using the information collected from hacking victims to solicit them for business and additional fees. Experian is also allowed to sell people’s personal data and information to other research companies. Even now, in moving on to the next credit monitoring service for the upcoming year, South Carolinians are suffering through major problems in trying to sign up and not able to get access to the services they’ve been promised leaving another dangerous lag time. It’s inexcusable.
u Haley’s no-bid contract with Experian contained no added protections for South Carolina’s families, businesses and children who signed up. There was no limitation on the sale of people’s personal data and no clause to protect them from solicitation. There was a serious lack of due diligence in investigating the company to become aware of any ongoing investigations like the one being conducted by the Secret Service. Decision upon decision, Haley and her team failed to properly protect hacking victims from further abuse after they had already been subjected to so much risk under her watch. We can do better.
Bipartisan leadership, real accountability will deliver results and move us forward. I am proud to have worked across the aisle in the state Legislature and with the state treasurer to create the Taxpayer Protection Fund. This fund will help those who suffer a financial loss as a result of the hacking to become whole again. It’s just one step forward in our work to improving South Carolina - of fixing what went wrong with the governor’s response to the DOR hacking, and reforming state government to increase accountability and oversight. But we have much more to do.
We need honest leadership, with real accountability to change the way this state does business – not just on protecting our data and maintaining transparency - but in building a strong economy from within our state that creates prosperity for all our families and businesses. We can get there, together.
S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-27) has officially announced his intention to run for governor in 2014.