COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Several state employees used state-issued e-mail addresses to connect with a website that allows users to pay money to cheat on their spouse, a data analysis uncovered on Thursday.
Earlier this week, a hacker group calling themselves the "Impact Team" released a database of 32 million users of the website AshleyMadison.com. The website advertises itself with the motto, "Life is short. Have an affair."
The hacker group threatened to release the data if the holding company of Ashley Madison, Avid Life Media did not cease all operations with the website. The company did not comply, and the hackers released the data.
"We have hacked them completely, taking over their entire office and production domains and thousands of systems, and over the past few years have taken all customer information databases, complete source code repositories, financial records, documentation, and emails, as we prove here," a post from the hackers said. "And it was easy. For a company whose main promise is secrecy, it's like you didn't even try, like you thought you had never pissed anyone off."
The alleged data released by the group shows several customers used "sc.gov" e-mail addresses, including users from Greenwood County, DHEC, the state Department of Education, and Jasper County.
One of those e-mail addresses, according to an Upstate solicitor, belonged to a former state employee.
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo released a statement Thursday and said the email address of a former employee that was found on the list of hacked email addresses.
"The email address in question has been inactive for some time, but was used by a person formerly employed as an IT specialist in the 8th Circuit Solicitor's Office. He was hired into his role in 2005 under my predecessor's administration, and his employment with our office ended in 2014 for matters unrelated to the use of the Ashley Madison website. I was informed of these facts late yesterday, and there is no further action to take on our part, since this person has not been employed with my office for over a year now."
Tech experts note that just because a domain or email shows up does not mean the owner used it to access the site.
Meanwhile, Gov. Nikki Haley said the Inspector General's Office could look into these e-mail addresses.
"That's exactly the point of the Inspector General," Haley said. "What we did, gosh I want to say the first year in office, we made sure that all state computers, we looked at what web sites they could or could not access, public servants could or could not access. And so we immediately made sure that my cabinet at least had it restricted on what state employees could and could not be using those web sites for. We've done all that we can and this would be something that I certainly would ask the Inspector General again, go back let's look at this and make sure that we're doing all that we can."
Haley, who admitted she wasn't aware of the website until just a couple of days ago, says she's been focused on high priority issues including National Guard security and Gitmo detainees this week. She says her office will deal with the data breach and any consequences for state government when there is time.
The website says they continue to look into the issues.