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South Carolina Department of Revenue hacked

Columbia, SC (WLTX, The Greenville News, USA TODAY) - WLTX has uncovered an overseas plot to steal the identities of millions of people in South Carolina.

WLTX received a tip earlier this week about the breach, and we began asking questions. We partnered with the Greenville News and USA TODAY to get you the information about this situation.

State and federal confirmed to us that one of the South Carolina Department of Revenue's servers was hacked by someone in a foreign country.

The agency is responsible for 32 separate state taxes, licenses, and your state income tax returns, and that contains your information.

The first breach occured on August 27, 2012 although we are told no information was taken at that time. On October 10, the SC Division of Information Technology informed the Dept. of Revenue of a potential cyber attack. On October 16, investigators uncovered two attempts to probe the system from September. In mid-September, two other instrusions occurred, and the hacker got data for the first time.

The extent of the breach was massive: an estimated 3.6 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers were exposed . Just 16,000 of these credit card numbers were not encrypted; however, none of the Social Security numbers were.

For perspective, there are almost 4.7 million South Carolinians, according to the 2012 U.S. Census, meaning three out of four people's Social Security numbers were compromised.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel told WLTX exclusively that this is one of the biggest investigations he has ever been a part of in his career.

They have been working to secure your information. The state is offering credit counseling to those affected. Anyone who has paid taxes since 1998 should call 1-866-578-5422. The phone line is busy, but keep trying, you will get through and the process takes about 10 minutes. Alternately, you can request an access code to use at www.protectmyid.com/scdor.

Mandiant, a top information security company, says they are assisting in the investigation. They are also helping to secure the state's system, and are installing new equipment and software.

Meanwhile, Governor Nikki Haley promised action against the person responsible. "I want that man just brutalized," she said. "I want him slammed against the wall."

Haley issued an executive order where she outlines areas where she wants the state's cyber security to improve.