SC Cyber consortium to educate, tackle cyber threats

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides announces the SC Cyber consortium to tackle the growing problem of cybercrime on Wednesday at the USC Alumni Center in Columbia.

COLUMBIA – Several South Carolina leaders announced their plan to combat cybercrime Wednesday, a problem state residents are all too familiar with.

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides said the newly created SC Cyber consortium will educate students, government officials and businesses on cyber-security skills that will create and attract jobs in the growing technology industry to the state.

“SC Cyber will provide something we don’t do well enough in South Carolina or anywhere in the United States and that’s to link technology with better policy and law,” Pastides said. “Our nation will be better prepared to address threats of today and those we can’t foresee tomorrow.”

Pastides wouldn’t weigh in on the current encryption debate between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over unlocking one of the San Bernadino terrorists’ cell phones, but cited it as an example that the USC School of Law would analyze in its role with SC Cyber.

Cybercrime hits close to home for South Carolinians. In 2012, the state Department of Revenue was breached, compromising the personal information of 3.8 million taxpayers, nearly 2 million dependents and 700,000 businesses. Gov. Nikki Haley said the breach keeps cyber-security on her mind.

“That’s when I started looking at cyber-security completely differently,” Haley said. “I can’t promise you that we won’t get hacked again. What I can promise you is it won’t be out of lack of communication, a lack of education or a lack of coordination.”

Last week, the state’s Medicaid agency announced it started implementing safeguards to secure the personal information of some 1 million residents who were shown to be at risk of cyber theft due to the agency’s 40-year-old computer system and poor safety measures.

Since the SCDOR hack there have been multiple widespread breaches of personal information from retailers and government agencies such as Target and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, exposing data of more than 60 million people.

Lester Eisner, deputy director the USC Office of Economic Engagement, said the partnerships with business, education and government agencies will eventually create hubs throughout the state to one day rival places like the Research Triangle region in North Carolina.

“If we leverage this then all of a sudden South Carolina won’t be viewed as a mediocre technology state to come to,” Eisner said.

Large and small technology companies IBM and Wave Science are partnering with USC along with USC Aiken, the College of Charleston, The Citadel, and state technical colleges. Business owners, executives and government workers will also be able to train on combating cyber threats alongside students when courses start this summer.

USC allocated $2 million for the program in its budget request. The House Ways and Means Committee is currently writing the state budget.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.