Data breach hits Florida's unemployment system

Some Florida residents who have made unemployment claims may have had personal data stolen, officials said Thursday.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has notified 98 people who were part of a data breach associated with unemployment claims, agency spokeswoman Paige Landrum said in an email. Officials didn’t say when the breach occurred, how many people were affected or what information was taken.

The breach was addressed within one hour of officials learning of it, Landrum said. In an abundance of caution, the department is making available identity protection services at no charge to affected individuals, Landrum said. Victims have been advised to report any unauthorized activity on their financial accounts.

The DEO has received more than 2 million claims seeking unemployment benefits from Floridians since the coronavirus pandemic caused mass business closings around the state, though only 1.6 million claims have been verified. Just under 1 million jobless workers in Florida have been paid more than $2.6 billion in benefits.

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State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, expressed concern about the breach Thursday in a letter to Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter. Satter’s department oversees information technology for other state agencies.

“Given the agency’s (DEO) track record with processing unemployment applications, I’m sure you will understand the great concern I have that all remedies have been quickly taken and that Floridians can be assured that their personal information is now secured and will be protected from future attacks,” Stewart wrote.

The DEO has not received any reports of malicious activity, Landrum said.