‘Employ Florida’ Website Is Live Again After Major Cyber Attack Took It Down for 2 Weeks, Delaying Unemployment Claims

Toby Hazlewood

The kind of attack that Gov. DeSantis is trying to prevent?

Hacked computerShutterstock

On July 12 the 'Employ Florida' website - which is used by jobless Floridians to find work, and which helps track those who are eligible for unemployment benefits - came back online. It had been taken down for nearly two weeks after the company that hosts it, and numerous other similar sites for state governments across the U.S. was victim of a cyber attack.

Geographic Solutions Inc. were targeted by a ransomware attack which forced them to take down websites like Employ Florida until control of the sites could be recovered from cybercriminals.

Hindering the unemployed

The attack put many state governments in a difficult position since job-hunters weren't able to log on and search for work and hence were unable to meet pre-requisite conditions for claiming unemployment benefits.

Many states - including Florida - were forced to temporarily waive the job search requirement for those seeking unemployment benefits until the website was recovered. In spite of this, it is reported that many thousands were delayed in submitting unemployment benefits claims.

Florida's renewed focus on cybersecurity

The state of Florida has recently renewed its focus upon preventing cyberattacks and being better prepared to prevent and respond to them.

On July 1, new laws took effect in the state after Governor Ron DeSantis signed bill HB7055. The bill has many provisions within it, including one that makes participating in a ransomware attack against a government entity punishable by penalties and fines. It's also illegal to pay ransoms demanded by cyber attackers.

The governor also recently announced that $15.6 million will be invested in education and training for high school and college students as a means of preparing the state to fill an estimated 27,000 highly paid jobs in the field of cybersecurity in the coming years.

Cybercrime on the increase

A recent study by the University of Maryland suggests that a new cybercrime occurs every 39 seconds within the United States. One in three Americans will be a victim of cybercrime every year, whether that's having their password stolen, an account hacked or a more severe online theft of money or aspects of their identity.

In 2021, Americans throughout the U.S. experienced first-hand the impacts of large-scale cyberattacks when the Colonial oil and gas pipeline was hacked, causing the pipeline to be shut down until a $5 million ransom had been paid.

Governor DeSantis had to declare a state of emergency over the pipeline hacking. His actions demonstrate the severity of such attacks and the power that hackers have to force compliance and create mayhem if victims can be forced to comply.

The attack that took down the 'Employ Florida' website this month is another demonstration of the power that cybercriminals have to interfere in the lives of law-abiding citizens.

Have you been affected by cybercrime or do you know anyone who has? Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

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