(MOBILE, Al) -- Hackers would have had a much harder time trying to infiltrate the tax return database in Alabama than they did in many other states, the Alabama Revenue Commissioner said Tuesday. Reached by phone, Julie Magee responded to the massive breach of the Palmetto's state's tax return agency, first discovered last month.
Magee said she learned through a conference call following the attack Alabama is 1 of only 3 states with its level of cyber security.
A hacker, believed to be operating from Russia, gained access to 3.8 million social security numbers of individual filers. Of those, 1.9 million of their dependents' information was also compromised, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said in an update Tuesday. The hacker also downloaded 387,000 debit and credit card numbers along with 657,000 business tax returns.
"You know, I want that man just brutalized," Haley said of the hacker. "Even though you can't see this criminal, they are there and they are waiting."
The breach was possible because the social security numbers in South Carolina's database were not encrypted. Haley also blamed the successful attack on equipment used in the state's IRS department is from 1970 and the federal policies of the IRS, do not require states to encrypt social security numbers.
"When you can get social security numbers as well as all the other information on tax returns, that's the jackpot," former Dept. of Justice Computer Crimes official Michael DuBose said. Haley accepted the resignation of Department of Revenue Director Jim Etter, effective December 31.
Magee said Alabama, through its contracted security vendor Gen Tax, encrypts "In-transit " information which is being sent and received at any moment as well as "in-rest" information that is stored. A five member team is dedicated to daily monitoring of Alabama's database, she said. The Information Services Division, which covers all state computers also has its own network of firewalls and security measures in place. Magee said, on the conference call, her counterparts in other states were looking for ways to implement the plans used in Alabama.
"I was very happy to see that Alabama was one of the best protected states in the nation in how we protect our data," she said.
South Carolina's compromised information was already being offered on the black market, as shown in a report on NBC's Today show. "There are some determined people out there who want to steal information that doesn't belong to them, but at the end of the day we're making security a priority and paying for top of the line security and i feel like we're doing our job and that's what the taxpayers want us to do," Magee said.