COLUMBIA — The state agency, where hackers stole personal financial information belonging to 6.4 million consumers and businesses, will get a $20.1 million loan to pay for cleaning up one of the nations worst-ever data thefts.
The bailout from the state Insurance Reserve Fund, approved unanimously Wednesday by the state Budget and Control Board, is more than the seven previous loans between state agencies combined, $18 million.
The S.C. Department of Revenue will use the loan to pay: $12 million for a year of credit monitoring for taxpayers; $5.6 million to encrypt data; $1.3 million to notify affected taxpayers of the breach; and $1.2 million to hire a private computer forensics firm, attorneys and a public relations agency.
The department cannot repay the costs on its own. The bills represent about half of the Revenue Departments $41.7 million budget for this year.
The loan comes just in time.
Experian is scheduled to get the first $6 million payment toward its $12 million contract to provide credit monitoring by Saturday. The remainder is due next month.
More than 930,000 taxpayers have registered for credit monitoring, the governors office said. Gov. Nikki Haley has recommended everyone who filed state taxes electronically since 1998 enroll.
Notification letters, informing affected taxpayers of the breach, have not been mailed yet while the letters final wording awaits approval, her office said.
The loan must be repaid by October, though the budget board can extend the terms. The Revenue Department will request money to repay the loan in next years state budget.
Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, asked what would happen if lawmakers balked at allocating the money needed to repay the loan.
The Senate, this thing could get bogged down, Leatherman said. This is my 33rd year (in the Senate), and I have seen some unusual things happen.
Gov. Nikki Haley said she has not received any resistance to repaying the loan.
You cant put a price on the trust of the people in this state, she said. I cant imagine which senator would hold up to pay for something that went into protecting the people of their district.
If the money is not approved, Haley said she would cut the Revenue Departments.
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom thinks lawmakers will OK repaying the money, but he mentioned problems with a previous loan $9.2 million to the Patriots Point Development Authority in 2009 that was due a year later. When expected federal money fell through, the authority said it needed to extend that loans due date until 2013.
The Budget and Control Board also approved seeking a request for proposal, commonly called an RFP, to hire a consultant who would assess the security needs of the states computers. That assessment then would be used to help the state bring in another firm to develop a formal cyber-security plan.
This is a RFP for a RFP, Haley said.
A report issued last week by the S.C. inspector general recommended hiring the computer-security consultants. Other recommendations included centralizing computer management and hiring a chief information security officer.
Leatherman said Wednesday that he was concerned the state was moving too fast in hiring experts and not getting public input. But Haley said the state cannot wait.
Every other agency is still getting pinged (in attempted hackings), Haley said. Us waiting on the legislative session ... is allowing more risk.