State leaders announced credit protection soon will be offered for the possible 657,000 businesses that also might have had their financial information exposed in an international hacking incident that has rattled our state.

Gov. Nikki Haley, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel and S.C. Department of Revenue Jim Etter held a news conference this afternoon to provide further updates on the state DOR information security breach that also has exposed nearly 3.6 million South Carolinians’ personal and financial information.

The U.S. Secret Service told Haley last night that some businesses also were compromised in the security breach.

“We’re still trying to get more information on that, but immediately we went into action,” Haley said.

Starting Friday at 8 a.m. Dun & Bradstreet, a credit monitoring firm for businesses, will have a site set up specifically for South Carolina business, Haley said.

The firm will offer the monitoring for life for free. After signing up businesses will be notified of any changes to their accounts, even address changes, notifying them of any modifications. There is no cost to the state, according to Haley.

“This is the kindness of a company that sees we’re going through a crisis,” she said.

Business owners can visit starting Friday or call 1-800-279-9981. Haley wants businesses to sign up by January but said there is no deadline.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has reached out to the Internal Revenue Service to see if businesses also can be allowed to change their employer identification number (EIN), Haley said. Businesses also can contact their banks to change their debit or credit card numbers.

Haley first announced on Friday that some 3.6 million unencrypted Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit or debit card numbers were contained in the database raided by hackers in cyber-attacks that date to Aug. 27.

State officials have advised anyone who had filed a state tax return since 1998 to take steps to learn if their information had been misused by identity thieves. The state is offering one year of free credit monitoring to worried taxpayers through the credit monitoring company contracted through the state, Experian.

As of today, 620,000 people had contacted the call center to begin the process of registering for that protection, and 418,000 had signed up, Haley said.

Experian has agreed to cap the state’s costs at $12 million for a year’s worth of credit monitoring of taxpayers affected by a massive hacking breach at the Department of Revenue, according to Haley.

When asked where the money to pay for the service will come from, Haley said the legislature “will find this money.”

Haley and Keel maintained their silence on the details of the investigation during the news conference but vowed to continue releasing information on the effects.

Haley wants all her cabinets to reach out to citizens so that every South Carolinian is aware of this incident and the resources available to them, especially since they don’t know who’s information may be out there.

“It could take months to find out who’s in that batch,” Haley said.

That’s why the governor is urging everyone to take proactive steps now and sign up for either the Experian or Dun & Bradstreet service immediately.

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