SC Data breach

Ex-SC agency computer chief accepts some responsibility for hacking

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 7, 2013 

Mike Garon, former senior administrator and chief information officer for the South Carolina Department of Revenue, pauses before answering a question about the massive hacking breach during a special House committee meeting.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

The former computer chief at SC Department of Revenue accepted partial responsibility for policies that allowed hackers to get financial information from 6.4 million consumers, their dependents and businesses.

"Am I accountable for some element of this? Yes." Mike Garon told a special House committee investigating the breach on Thursday.

Garon, who left the agency a few weeks before the Secret Service discovered the hacking, said he was not alone in the administrative breakdowns that led to the nation’s largest breach at a state agency.

He said department leadership, including former director Jim Etter, did not follow his suggestions to make security a priority. Garon said they chose to work on multiple other projects that put agency’s computer security at risk.

"That was their list,” he said.They decided what to do."

Etter stepped down at the end of last year in a mutual agreement with Gov. Nikki Haley.

Garon also said he employees and contractors should have spotted the large amount of data being uploaded on Sept. 13-14 by monitoring computer logs. The uploads should have been spotted in a matter of days, he said.

“I was amazed we did not discover it on our logs,” Garon said.

The department was using contractors because of high turnover and delays in hiring new employees, Garon said.

Garon said he was fired on Sept. 21 because of run-in with a boss and an email sent to a state computer agency about new department policy without the director’s knowledge.

Garon’s departure was unrelated to the breach. Still, he was accused in testimony by a former revenue department computer security administrator of allowing lax security, which Garon denies.

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