Haley calls for 24-7 monitoring of computers at Cabinet agencies

  • Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 4:00 p.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 4:04 p.m.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks with reporters after addressing the state Chamber of Commerce meeting on the Isle of Palms, S.C., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Haley said that an investigation into the computer hacking of millions of South Carolina state tax returns is almost complete.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks with reporters after addressing the state Chamber of Commerce meeting on the Isle of Palms, S.C., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Haley said that an investigation into the computer hacking of millions of South Carolina state tax returns is almost complete.

Gov. Nikki Haley has issued an executive order requiring all cabinet-level state agencies to use a computer monitoring system that will be watched around the clock for security breaches.

Haley said her order also will require the purchase of equipment that will immediately shut down state computers if it notices any files being improperly moved or viruses being downloaded.

The move should take about 60 days to fully implement, Haley said.

Haley announced the measure during a news conference this afternoon. Haley said the cost of the measure will be split among the agencies involved.

About $160,300 in Homeland Security money from the State Law Enforcement Division will be used to purchase the new equipment from Mandiant, the company now conducting a review of how the breach occurred. A report on that review is expected this week, she said.

The measure is designed to avoid a repeat of the recent cyber attack which compromised Social Security numbers for 3.8 million people who had paid state taxes since 1998, thousands of credit and debit card numbers and information from as many as 657,000 S.C. businesses.

Haley said officials believe the hacker came in through one computer work station. The new equipment, known as “The Hand,” would immediately shut down access the system if such a breach was discovered, she said.

State Inspector General Patrick Maley said every state agency has some form of protection in place to safeguard its computers. The problem is that this isn't standardized, he said.

Maley said the steps taken today are a short-term safety measure. His task is now to help come up with a long-term solution, he said.

Haley compared the episode to Hurricane Hugo, which decimated the Lowcountry in 1989. Like Hugo, the hacking breach is an “eye-opener” to what could happen, she said. Her job is to find a way to protect the state from similar intrusions and come up with a security plan that can be a model for other states, she said.

Haley and other officials cautioned that the measure announced today is not a silver bullet that will absolutely prevent an attack. The goal, she said, is to put as many layers of security in place to “make it incredibly hard for any attacker to come in.”

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