By Robert Kittle
The South Carolina Department of Revenue says filing your state taxes electronically is safe and secure, despite the fact that a hacker stole the personal information of millions of taxpayers from DOR computers in 2012.
"With the amount of security measures that have been in place in our system and our continued focus on security, we encourage taxpayers to continue to file electronically because it is a safe method of filing," says Samantha Cheek, spokesperson for the department.
The hacker stole the information of people who filed electronically, but the DOR has put new security measures in place in response to that breach.
- The information that was stolen was not encrypted because it was not being transmitted anywhere. Now, DOR encrypts all of its data. That means even if a hacker were to get back into DOR computers and steal information, he couldn't read it without the right decryption code.
- DOR is now using two-factor authentication. IT experts say the hacker got into the DOR system by using a "phishing" email to get an employee's username and password. Once he had that, he could get in whenever he wanted. Two-factor authentication requires a second pass code to get into the system, and it's a randomly-generated number that changes constantly. Even if a hacker gets a username and password, he can't get into DOR computers without having the code.
- 24/7 monitoring. DOR's computers are now monitored around the clock for signs of hacking.
Cheek says e-filing is not only safe, it may be more secure than filing a paper return. Paper returns are handled by numerous people and can be stolen.
E-filing also gets your refund to you faster. If you file electronically, you can get your refund in as little as 10 days. With a paper return, it can take up to three weeks.
André Jackson got his taxes filed electronically Monday and says he's not worried about the security of his personal information. "I'm not because they've already had the problem, so I'm pretty sure they know what it was and they fixed it, so this year it shouldn't be a problem," he says.