SC state agency website back up after ‘defacing’ attack

jmonk@thestate.comDecember 23, 2012 

The Internet site of South Carolina’s state unemployment agency is back up and running with no data compromised after a weekend hacking attack.

Officials of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce characterized the incident as a “website defacement” that changed the visual appearance of the site.

“This defacement was nothing more than a malicious user who, we cannot stress enough, did not get any personal identifying information, sensitive and/or confidential data,” agency spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell said in an email Sunday.

No personal information “was accessed, released, lost or stolen because of the multiple layers of security we have in place,” Fairwell said.

The attack happened about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and the agency’s division of information technology immediately took the website offline to remove the defacement, which Fairwell likened to “graffiti on a wall.” The site went back online at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

This particularly defacement was characterized by a message which appeared briefly stating “This Site Was Hacked.”

This incident follows the announcement of the hacking of the SC Department of Revenue back in October that put millions of SC residents’ personal information at risk.

In mid-September, a computer hacker stole the tax filings of 3.8 million adults and 700,000 businesses as part of a massive security breach at the state Revenue Department. The state is paying Experian $12 million for one year of credit monitoring and dedicated call center operators. Nearly 1 million people have signed up so far. Notices to affected taxpayers began going out earlier this month.

DEW officials indicated Sunday their site had protection that the Department of Revenue didn’t have.

“DEW has multiple layers of security infrastructure in place, and this layered approach allows for overlapping lines of defense,” said Neil Adcox, interim assistant executive director for agency information technology.

DEW executive director Abraham Tuner said due to the agency’s secure site, “a more serious event was averted. We will continue to monitor, identify and eliminate vulnerabilities.”

It was unclear Sunday whether DEW had any idea who attacked it and whether law enforcement was investigating the incursion.

DEW is one of 16 state government agencies in Gov. Nikki Haley’s cabinet. It is responsible for paying unemployment insurance benefits, collecting unemployment taxes and helping out-of-work people find jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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