As many as 3.8 million tax records of South Carolina residents were stolen after cyber-criminals breached state computers, according to official statements quoted by NBC News. The number of victims has risen 5 per cent since police started investigating.
“That’s the final tally for now. The investigation is still ongoing,” Samantha Cheek, the Department of Revenueâ€™s spokeswoman, told NBC News. She gave no further details about who is suspected for the hackings, which were first made public at the end of October.
The state representative also said tax records from as many as 657,000 businesses and companies that have filed a state tax return since 1998 were exposed in the cyber-attack. The vulnerability in the agency’s network was allegedly repaired and the system is now secured. Other states were also warned about the flaw and started to review their security.
“There’s never been anything like this in a tax agency, in scope,” said Verenda Smith, deputy director of the Federation of Tax Administrators in Washington.
The tax agency is now offering free credit monitoring for a year and protection for the victims of the breach. The services will cost the state up to $12 million, and almost 700,000 people have already signed up as of Wednesday morning. The agency is also considering encrypting Social Security numbers.
Hackers made the first attempts to breach the state computers in August and September, when they used a foreign Internet protocol address and managed to steal taxpayersâ€™ personal details.
In August, South Carolina was also confronted with a huge academy data breach, when more than 34,000 students, staffers and researchers with the University of South Carolina had their names, addresses and Social Security numbers leaked on the Internet.