The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for people all over the world and this is a medical crisis that has left an economic one in its wake, marked by rising unemployment rates. This includes the state of Washington. Fortunately, in many parts of the country, unemployment benefits have been increased and extended for those who have had a hard time finding a job. Unfortunately, many people had their data compromised during a data breach that took place in December.
According to information that was published by the Washington State Auditor, a data breach at the end of 2020 could have compromised the information of as many as 1.6 million people in the state of Washington for applied for unemployment benefits in 2020.
The breach took place at a third-party server and could have exposed the personal information of people who work for the government as well. Anyone who applied for unemployment benefits between Jan 1, 2020, and Dec 10, 2020, including those who worked for the government during that time, could have had their information exposed.
This is not the first attack that has taken place at the Washington Employment Security Department. Last Spring, the department lost hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud cases as close to 400,000 people’s identities were stolen to apply for benefits fraudulently. This led to a tremendous amount of criticism on the part of the department.
Right now, law enforcement is still investigating the breach to determine what happened. The agency says that they have used this software program for 13 years and they believed the security measures in place to be appropriate. Unfortunately, this same agency has been a target of hackers in other parts of the world as well, such as New Zealand and Australia.
Right now, it is incumbent on everyone who might have had their information stolen to take steps to protect themselves. It is important to keep an eye on all financial accounts for any signs of fraudulent activity. Finally, anyone who believes they have been the victim of identity theft should report it to law enforcement immediately and reach out to a trained legal professional to assess all of their options.