South Carolina Announces Initiative to Prevent, Fight Cybercrime

By | February 26, 2016

The South Carolina Revenue Department’s massive 2012 data breach gave Gov. Nikki Haley a firsthand lesson on the need for efforts to counter cybercrime, she said Wednesday.

“Today, there is never a day I don’t think about cybersecurity,” Haley told academics and business, government and military officials who gathered to kick off a new, statewide program in cooperation with the University of South Carolina.

Hackers stole the Revenue Department’s electronically filed tax returns from 3.8 million adults and 700,000 businesses in 2012. The theft included the unencrypted Social Security numbers of the adults and their 1.9 million dependents.

Last week, the state’s Medicaid agency announced it had begun implementing safeguards to secure the personal health information of roughly 1 million residents, who were shown to be at risk of cybertheft due to the agency’s 4-decade-old computer system and poor safety measures.

“Those that attack are patient and those that attack never stop trying,” Haley said, adding that she hoped the consortium’s work will put South Carolina “at the forefront of cybersecurity.”

Haley joined University President Harris Pastides to unveil the formation of “SC Cyber,” the group drawn from state government, academia, the South Carolina National Guard and the state’s leading industries.

Other organizations involved in the effort are the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Clemson University, and businesses such as IBM, Boeing, and AT&T.

The initiative’s goal will be to secure the state’s critical cyber infrastructure by training government workers, business people and small business owners about security techniques to counter cybercriminals and prevent the theft of vital information, the officials said.

Pastides said the university will add new courses in computer security for its students, internships to train them, and opportunities for research and development work for its faculty.

Pastides said he believed there are thousands of job openings in the state that can be filled through the coursework and training the group will offer in coming years. The effort will also cooperate with the state’s Department of Education to instill interest in cybersecurity programs among younger students, he said.

Retired South Carolina National Guard Maj. Gen. Lester Eisner, who worked more than a year to set up the group through the University of South Carolina’s Office of Economic Engagement, said the effort will be supported in part by a $2 million university budget request, course fees and federal grants.

Eisner noted that the state’s National Guard is tasked with helping defend South Carolina’s critical infrastructure, and its officials are going to help the group make use of the military’s growing capabilities in dealing with cyberthreats.

“We hope to turn some negatives into positives,” said Eisner.

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