SC House Struggles to Balance Costs, Benefits of Protecting Taxp - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

SC House Struggles to Balance Costs, Benefits of Protecting Taxpayers' Information

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South Carolina -
A state Senate bill to provide more computer security for South Carolina taxpayers is having a tough time in the House, as House members worry about the costs and benefits of protecting your information.

The state is providing one year of free credit monitoring for taxpayers after someone hacked into the computer files at the state Department of Revenue last year, stealing the personal information of more than 6 million taxpayers, dependents and businesses.
But now lawmakers are trying to figure out how to best extend that protection.

The Senate-passed bill would provide taxpayers with ten years of protection. The House version would make it five years.

But Rep. Harry Ott, D-St.Matthews, a member of the House committee working on the bill, says, "I don't believe it's smart on the part of the state of South Carolina to pass a law that says we're going to give you five years of protection and we have no idea what those five years of protection are going to cost."

The bill simply says the state will provide that protection, but the state hasn't gotten bids yet on how much that would cost.

State taxpayers have already shelled out $20 million because of the hacking: $12 million to Experian for the one year of credit monitoring for taxpayers and $8 million for immediate computer security upgrades.

The bills lawmakers are working on would also create a new Division of State Information Security, an Identity Theft Unit with the Department of Consumer Affairs, and a Technology Investment Council and Joint Information Security Oversight Committee. All that will also cost taxpayers money.

Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, another member of the House Ways and Means Committee, says he doesn't like the idea of creating more state government.
"We're hearing numbers anywhere from $18 million a year to $25 million a year, and that doesn't even count start-up. Then you also look at the agencies that are being created and affected, and then whether those agencies all talk to one another and what sort of information needs to be protected. And then on the backside, what happens and who's liable if something does happen? So none of that's been decided and it's not an easy fix."

Rep. Ott says the new protection for taxpayers needs to do more than the current year of free credit monitoring.

"Some people look at this and say, 'Well, most of the things we think we are buying isn't protection. All this is to monitor your credit. And if somebody does open a credit account in your name using your information, we'll notify you.' Well that's not really protection, because that didn't stop them from opening that account in the first place. So yes, it's monitoring, but is it, in fact, protection? And I'm not convinced the path that we are choosing offers our citizens the protection I believe they deserve," he says.
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