NBC4 Goes Inside State Department Working Against Online Hackers - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

NBC4 Goes Inside State Department Working Against Online Hackers

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The State of Ohio is under attack every minute of every day by faceless, nameless enemies from all over the globe. They are computer hackers and scammers who are constantly trying to gain access to personal information.

Just after Christmas last year, Gracie Flowers of Columbus was conned into providing remote access to her computer to someone claiming to a troubleshooter for Microsoft Windows. They quickly stole Flowers' banking information and cleaned out her checking account. Flowers is still stinging from the experience.

"I'm still fighting to try to get my money back," Flowers said. "No one's going to be responsible. They may never find these people."

Last summer, an international hacker got access to files at the South Carolina Department of Revenue by sending state employees spam emails that contained an embedded link. When a state employee clicked on the link, it activated software that allowed hackers to grab employee usernames and passwords. It was a goldmine for the hacker who stole close to 4 million unencrypted Social Security numbers and nearly 400,000 taxpayer credit card numbers.

At the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, David Brown, the state's chief information security officer, says state computers are constantly under attack.

"We see a lot of threats from within the United States but also from China, from Russia, from eastern European countries, to some degree the middle east. Africa, South America, it's really all over," Brown said.

Brown says Ohio's defenses have held up well, in part because of a 2007 car break-in that served as a wake-up call for state officials. A computer tape stolen from a state intern's car putting more than 1 million Ohioans' social security numbers at risk.

Darren Arnold, the state's chief privacy officer says much has been done since then.

"We've done a number of things such as training thousands of employees on how to secure personal information and we've issued encryption requirements and we've encrypted thousands of laptops and PC's," Arnold said.

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