Can you imagine 3.6 million social security numbers stolen? It happened. And such massive personal data theft can only happen via a cyber attack. Late last month, an international hacker illegally obtained tax information from a South Carolina computer system, reports The New York Times. It was, in fact, the largest cyber attack on a state government.
Along with the social security numbers, the hacker stole 387,000 credit and debit card numbers. A majority of the stolen credit cards were encrypted; the Social Security numbers were not. Still, the state said it would pay up to $12 million to provide a free year of credit monitoring and identity theft prevention to anyone affected.
The attack isn’t only being felt in that state, but nationwide as it has put other states on high alert.
This is not the first time this has happened. While not on the scale of the South Carolina attack, “(s)ince 2005, at least 11 state tax agencies have faced security breaches, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer rights group. But most were caused by internal accidents, not attacks, and none were on this scale,” reports the newspaper.
Such cyber attacks most often lead to identity thefts. The Social Security numbers can be used by hackers for financial gain. “The most common line of attack for identity thieves is to use your personal information to apply for credit cards and of course, you won’t know that until it’s too late,” reports Carolina Live. Your name and social security number can also be used to open brokerage accounts and loan requests. Most often vicitims don´t know until it is too late.
Once you are a victim of identity theft, it can take years to clean up your credit and financial records.