Nebraska Unemployment Filings affected by Cyberattack

Written by Mike Boutwell

August 18, 2022

Because of a cyberattack on a software provider, thousands of people in multiple states are unable to access their unemployment benefits or receive aid in their job search.

Following an announcement made by the vendor, Geographic Solutions Inc., to the state of Tennessee on Sunday that service would be disrupted, the website for unemployment benefits in Tennessee remained inaccessible as of Thursday morning. There are approximately 12,000 people that depend on the unemployment program in Tennessee, but for the time being, they are not receiving their payouts.

The organization has stated that it anticipates the system in Tennessee will be back online before July 4th.

It is unacceptable that Tennesseans are unable to receive the unemployment benefits they deserve, said state Republican Sen. Paul Bailey, who chairs the commerce and labor committee. “A recession is looming, and it is unacceptable that Tennesseans cannot receive the unemployment benefits they deserve.”

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the president of Geographic Solutions claimed that preliminary findings from the company’s inquiry suggest that no personally identifiable information was accessed and no data was taken from the company’s network operations center.

The company’s president, Paul Toomey, stated that his organization discovered “anomalous behavior” on its network and promptly took the system in Tennessee offline to stop the activity.

“We are conducting a complete investigation with the assistance of third-party professionals to determine the cause and scope of the occurrence,” Toomey stated. “That investigation is still active, and we are taking measures to assist in lowering the likelihood of something like this occurring again,”

Unemployment agencies’ websites in several other states were also impacted. People in Louisiana who want to file for unemployment benefits online are redirected to a phone center instead of being allowed to do so. The state of Nebraska has stated that it does not have a specific date for when the website that allows users to file claims will be back online after it was taken offline.

In an email, Grace Johnson, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Labor, stated that individuals would not be able to file for unemployment benefits until the system is back online.

It is yet unknown whether or not Geographic Solutions was the victim of an assault caused by ransomware or any other kind of cyber event. Also unclear is the total number of states that are impacted.

On Thursday morning, the website belonging to Geographic Solutions was inaccessible. The organization, which is situated in Florida, has stated that its customers come from more than 35 states and territories.

As a result of the attack, several state-operated job search websites, including Tennessee’s, were rendered inaccessible to users. People receiving unemployment benefits in Florida will no longer be required to participate in job searches, according to a statement released by the state. The state of Texas has developed a new website just for its residents who are looking for employment, and the website features links to prominent work search websites such as LinkedIn.

According to Nebraska, Geographic Solutions has confirmed that no user’s personally identifiable information was stolen. The state of Florida has stated that there is no evidence that any of its governmental systems have been compromised.

The legislator from Tennessee named Bailey asserted that the state’s Department of Labor needed a backup plan “so they are not fully dependent on a system shown to be unreliable.” He stated that the state should do “everything it takes” to streamline the process of updating the system using the money that has been put aside by state lawmakers and provide people with their unemployment benefits as soon as possible.

It is currently unknown how long the power outage could last.

Cybercriminals frequently target state governments as well as the companies that provide services to those governments. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, con artists operating online from Nigeria were extremely active in their attempts to steal increasing unemployment benefits.

Ransomware assaults, in which thieves encrypt victims’ data and demand money to release it to its normal state, continue to wreak havoc on digital systems responsible for providing essential government services.

An oil pipeline that supplies the East Coast was forced to shut down by ransomware attacks that were launched in the United States by cybercriminals the previous year. These attacks also halted production at the largest meat-processing company in the world and compromised a major software company with thousands of customers worldwide.

The United States government has prioritized the issue, although it has had limited success in holding key ransomware offenders accountable for their actions. Many people are able to carry out their activities anywhere in Russia or close to the country without fear of repercussions.

An attack that prevents people who have recently lost their jobs from applying for unemployment benefits is a glaring example of the significant damage that can be caused by cybercrime, according to Allan Liska, an intelligence analyst with the cybersecurity company Recorded Future.

He stated that those who had the least amount of resources would be the ones who would suffer the most as a result of this.

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