Published On: Mon, Jul 26th, 2021

Hackers access data of thousands on Florida’s unemployment benefits website

Between April 27 and July 16, hackers targeted 57,920 users on Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) website, known as CONNECT. 

The DEO was made aware of the incident on July 16, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Compromised accounts were locked and the DEO said it has notified potential victims of the data breach.

DEO spokesman Andrew Nixon said that those who initiated the attack may have accessed Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account numbers, claims information “and other personal details, such as address, phone number, and date of birth.”

Nixon said the agency has also improved the PIN security controls; notified the Department of Legal Affairs, Department of Management Services, including the Division of State Technology, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; reported affected accounts to three U.S. credit reporting agencies; and purchased a years subscription of identity protection services for claimants affected by the hack. 

The individuals behind that attack have yet to be identified.

The hack took place during a period in which the DEO said that CONNECT was being monitored for fraudulent job filings and other illegal activities. The agency has been searching its system since early this year for potential ID thieves who have used stolen account information to file illegal claims for weekly benefits. The agency’s dashboard states that over 50,000 benefit claims have been flagged for “fraud detection.”

The DEO hired ID.me last spring, an identity verification company, in order to confirm the identities of agency clients when they access their CONNECT accounts. However, ID.me was not hired to protect against hackers.

Nixon said the DEO recommends that victims of the hacking “monitor their financial accounts, and if they see any unauthorized activity, they should promptly contact their financial institution.”

They can also reach out to the three U.S. credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to get a free credit report. Individuals can get their reports by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by logging onto www.annualcreditreport.com

Those affected can also contact the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) or online at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

About the Author

Gillian Manning - Gillian is a senior studying Multimedia Journalism and Communication Studies at Florida Atlantic University. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief at the University Press.

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