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One of Lancaster County's state representatives is taking Gov. Nikki Haley and other leaders to task on the handling of the massive tax data breach at the S.C. Department of Revenue.
District 27 Sen. Vincent Sheheen, whose district includes southern Lancaster County, issued a statement Nov. 29 during a press conference at the Statehouse in Columbia.
Along with fellow Democrat and S.C. Rep. James Smith, Sheheen demanded more answers and swifter action in response to news released in October that a hacker had accessed more than 3 million Social Security numbers and more than 385,000 credit and debit card numbers – all tied to people who've filed state income tax returns since 1998.
During her initial press conference on the matter, Haley said a “sophisticated hacker” caused the breach and that nobody working at the DOR could have prevented it from happening.
Sheheen says that was false, as he learned the department had refused free data-breach monitoring from the State Information Office – a system that likely would have detected the breach.
He also said the breach could have been avoided if the state had bought a $25,000 password system, which is now in place.
Sheheen and other lawmakers asked the Department of Revenue for a copy of the agency's data-security policy and a more-detailed report of the breach.
“Seriously, what happened to transparency in government?” Sheheen asked. “What happened to honesty with those of us who just got our information stolen?”
This week, Haley’s office announced that lawmakers and other officials can request the detailed report. Per the advice of data company Mandiant, though, the detailed report will not be available to the public, according to Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey.
Sheheen and Smith have issued three demands:
“Because so far, all we have seen is a lot of ducking, weaving and excuse making,” Sheheen said. “It’s time to take the politicians out of the loop. Because if you can't trust them to tell you what went wrong, how can we trust them to tell us it’s been fixed.”
“Because the government imposed this tax – this cost – on our citizens,” he said.
“Hopefully, our government has reached its low point in modern history,” Sheheen said. “Hopefully, we will look back on this episode as the wake-up call we needed in state government to change the way business has been done during the last decade.”
A game of politics?
Godfrey said Haley isn’t opposed to an independent audit and looks forward to working with state lawmakers on ways to further protect taxpayers.
Haley’s office, though, asserted that Sheheen’s statements are politically driven. Haley, a Republican, defeated Sheheen in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
“Throughout Sen. Sheheen’s long career as a political insider, he has never uttered the word ‘cyber security’ until this hacking incident occurred,” the statement said. “As Sen. Sheheen grandstands, Gov. Haley will continue her diligent daily efforts to make sure every South Carolinian is protected and to prevent further attacks.”
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152