Data Security During COVID-19 Unemployment

The federal labor department reported that between March 15 and April 4, over 16 million unemployment claims were filed after businesses shut down in response to the Coronavirus. A $2 trillion relief package was provided by the federal government in an attempt to expand employment coverage. While the funds are available, states nationwide have been having difficulty handling the volume of unemployment claims.

This is due in part to the outdated computer systems that unemployment offices are using to process the requests. While the lag in receiving funds is frustrating enough, internal errors have now caused people’s personally identifiable information (PII) to be leaked.

Outdated Coding and Lack of Knowledge

There are many instances of unemployment offices throughout the country having difficulties with their digital systems being unable to handle the number of requests properly. Colorado’s unemployment system, for example, is built on aging software that is running on the same coding language that has been used for decades. Its name is COBOL and an employee who would know how to work with this format of code has most likely surpassed the average working age.

The Verge found that there are at least 12 states that still use this aging code. While some, like California, have outside vendors that are familiar with the code, others have limited staff members who know the code making it difficult to handle the increase in requests. The Washington Post stated in an article that sometimes federal databases that are using outdated technology will simply crash, further slowing the process of getting funds to unemployed Americans.

Maryland uses software that is decades old and though Mississippi’s technology is supposed to be high quality according to the state leaders, their website has experienced frequent crashes as well. With limited federal funding for updating these computer systems, states are searching for those who know the outdated coding. Investments from private forms may help the system stay together for a time, it is only a band-aid for a much larger issue nationwide.

Data Leaks in New York

Issues with unemployment have reached other areas that are already dealing with increased numbers of Coronavirus cases such as the state of New York. The New York State Unemployment Insurance department experienced a data breach due to human error. Those who filed for unemployment received forms in the mail that included parts of other people’s claims.

The State Department of Labor claimed that their printer had a glitch and pieces of paper had stuck together, resulting in people receiving personal information of fellow New Yorkers. This information included:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Quarterly Earnings

This affected close to 200 people, and while the Department of Labor offered free credit reporting and the promise the problem was being resolved, that data is still exposed.

Best Storage for Personal Data

The US Department of Labor currently follows the requirements of their Privacy Program, which comply with the Privacy Act of 1974 and Department of Labor Privacy Act Regulations. The goal of the program is to protect an individual’s privacy while empowering the business and operational needs of the Department of Labor. Unfortunately, with outdated systems nationwide the chances of a data breach or hacking attempt only increase. Privacy programs do not protect data when a computer crashes or information that may have been lost among the volume of unemployment requests.

Upgrading systems is an important step for the government to take and proper data storage systems are needed to protect the data of the American citizens during a crisis as well as an average workday. The SecureDrive products are hardware encrypted storage devices that are FIPS 140-2 Level 3 Validated for total security.

They have secure authentication methods through PIN entry and biometric authentication through a mobile device. These drives cannot be reverse-engineered and an admin for the device can remotely wipe the drive if it becomes lost or stolen, preventing unauthorized parties from accessing critical files. To learn more about how these drives can protect data in the government sector as well as the life of the individual user, call 1-800-875-3230.