Itís been nearly a month since news broke of the cyber attack on South Carolina tax records, and the state has taken a variety of security steps to repair the breach and ensure that it never happens again.
But thereís one area where sufficient progress hasnít been made. So far, less than a fourth of the taxpayers who are at risk because of the breach have signed up with the security firm hired by the state to protect their interests.
Under the arrangement with Experian, taxpayers need to contact the company by the end of January to ensure fraud protection and insurance.
Clearly the message hasnít gotten out ó despite widespread coverage.
Gov. Nikki Haley last week enlisted utility companies to help inform the public through their billings. That will ensure that 3.1 million citizens will be notified.
The governor also has contacted AARP in an effort to let elderly South Carolinians know about the importance of taking steps to protect against the real threat of identity theft.
The cyber thief stole the Social Security numbers of as many as 3.9 million South Carolinians. Also at risk are the debit and credit card numbers of those who used them to pay their income taxes. Most of those numbers were encrypted, though some 16,000 were not.
Gov. Haley hopes that the numbers of those at risk can be winnowed as the state gets more information about the cyber attack from the ongoing investigation.
On Friday, she stressed the necessity of citizen involvement, since federal privacy laws prohibit the state from acting directly on their behalf. This is an area where South Carolinians need to communicate among their extended families to ensure that everyone is protected against identity theft and provided credit monitoring. Family members know who might be out of the loop or who is a perpetual procrastinator.
The governor emphasized the speed with which the matter can be handled, either on the phone or via the Internet (assuming that taxpayers have regained an adequate comfort level with web-based communications in the wake of the cyber attack).
ďItís only five minutes,Ē she said, adding that Experian is providing personalized attention to those who need it. And the protection is free and retroactive.
Individual S.C. individual taxpayers should call 1-866-578-5422 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.) to enroll. Or visit www.ProtectMyID.com/SCDOR (code SCDOR123).
Services include unlimited fraud resolution and a year of identity theft protection.
Gov. Haley cites other areas that need attention as the state continues to investigate the cyber attack and to develop future protections. Those include government restructuring, to provide a central authority over information technology and human resources across the range of state agencies.
But first and foremost is dealing with the current crisis. Individual taxpayers need to join the cyber protection effort. Itís to their benefit to do so as soon as possible.