FBI consultant says breach resulted from agency mistake

Frank Abagnale (Rebecca Lamb/WCIV)

By Eric

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Department of Revenue security breach has brought analysis and comment from all angles, including an expert with 36 years of FBI consulting experience.

Frank Abagnale was featured in the film 'Catch Me If You Can', as a successful con man who was very skilled at forging checks. He went on to work for the FBI for decades and calls this breach very serious. According to Abagnale, the compromised Social Security numbers of more than three million people should be international news

"The fact that it came from a state agency, not a private company or entity, I think that's very significant," Abagnale said.

Today Abagnale has a home in Charleston. In the 1960's he committed several of the crimes he has spent most of his life helping the FBI prevent.

Abagnale says it's very likely someone's mistake led to the breach.

"It's because someone in that company or agency did something they weren't supposed to do. They opened an email they shouldn't have read, went online and looked at a site they shouldn't have gone on to," said Abagnale.

He says hackers often wait and watch for an opening. He's also surprised the governor said most agencies do not encrypt their data.

"No, that's not true," he said. "Most all banks encrypt social security numbers and encrypt most of the data they have."

A big concern of Abagnale's is the state's desire to protect dependents or children. He says that could mean full tax information was given up.

"Which means they (hackers) have the return, which means they know where you work and have your home address. They have your children's social security numbers," he said.

And offering Experian protection to the public? He calls that a good thing.

But, he says South Carolina residents may be vulnerable longer than the six to eight months Governor Nikki Haley predicted.

"One year is not going to help me," Abagnale said. "One year it will be gone, and then two years later this will show up."

Abagnale's biggest concern is hackers using Social Security numbers to file fake tax returns. It's something a site like Experian can't monitor.

According to Abagnale, the hackers may be from a place like Romania or Russia.