Florida Unemployment System Targeted by Hackers, State Warns Plaintiffs of Potential Data Compromise

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has warned that hackers may have stolen personal information from possibly tens of thousands of residents seeking or receiving unemployment benefits.

DEO disclosed the security incident Friday in messages it sent to claimants with accounts in the department’s online Re-employment Assistance Benefits and Claims Information System, also known as CONNECT.

“The Department discovered that malicious actors were targeting complainants’ accounts through the public complainant portal CONNECT,” the department said Saturday in response to a query from The Washington Times.

A total of 57,920 claimant accounts were attacked between April 27 and July 16, when DEO learned of the incident, the department explained in an email.

DEO said the information contained in the targets’ accounts “may have been accessed,” including possibly social security numbers, driver’s license number, bank account numbers, contact information and more.

Criminals can exploit sensitive data, such as that contained in target accounts, to carry out identity theft and other crimes.

It was unclear to what extent the hackers managed to steal that sensitive data. DEO said that “an unauthorized party may have accessed the specific accounts,” but did not specify further.

“There is no evidence of any other unauthorized access and there is no indication of related malicious activity on the Department’s internal networks,” he said in an email.

DEO said it blocked specific accounts upon learning of the incident and improved security controls. It said it also notified several other state offices and three credit reporting agencies and paid for the subscription to a year of identity protection services for affected claimants.

“While states continue to fight significant attacks on unemployment systems across the country, fraud prevention remains a priority for the Department,” DEO told The Times. “Florida is a leader in identifying and preventing unemployment fraud, and we will continue to take the necessary precautions to protect Floridians.”

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