Class-action suit wants $1K a piece for DOR hack victims

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With the click of a mouse, a foreign hacker broke into the state's Revenue Department and stole millions of taxpayer Social Security numbers and tens of thousands of credit and debit card numbers.

Now, former Sen. John Hawkins wants Gov. Nikki Haley and the Revenue Department to pay.

"Basically this is a cyber hurricane that's hit South Carolina and it's a category 5 and it's extremely serious and our leaders had an obligation to protect us from it and them to inform us of all the consequences," said Hawkins.

Haley has held four news conferences in the past week, updating the public on the number of people signing up for credit monitoring and the broad issues surrounding the hack.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel hasn't released any details about the hack or the hacker, saying he's protecting the investigation.

Haley told reporters the state really had no options to stop the hack, saying it's a result of the technology we live with. Officials admitted not all the sensitive information inside the Revenue Department was encrypted -- information that's now in the hands of a foreign hacker.

"Her saying this is not preventable is like saying we can't prepare for a hurricane because we don't know they're coming," said Hawkins. "We know hurricanes are going to hit South Carolina, we know hackers are out there that want our state, and it's the obligation of our chief executive and the DOR to protect us from that eventuality."

The suit contends Haley and the DOR violated state law by not doing enough to protect taxpayers' information and waiting too long to tell the public they were victims.

Hawkins thinks the public is still not getting the complete story about the hack and its impact.

During her Wednesday news conference, Haley responded to the lawsuit.

"There is a trial lawyer with a handout and with a tissue ready at any crisis, and he has just proven that," said Haley.

"Look, that's a very callous thing to say to people that probably will cry when they realize their bank accounts have been wiped out, or they become the victim of identity fraud. I predict there will be some tears shed in South Carolina because of her failure to lead and her failure to protect the people," said Hawkins.

The suit wants the governor and DOR to pay $1,000 to every tax payer affected by this hacker. The governor and DOR have 30 days to respond to the suit. As of Thursday, there are no hearings set in this case.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.