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IDES officials continue improvements for security measures to protect your personal information

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Illinois Department of Employment Security spoke with state lawmakers Thursday about improvements to ensure your personal information won't get stolen. The continued discussion followed a security breach last year that exposed the personal information of thousands of Illinoisans.

Acting IDES Director Kristin Richards said problems during the pandemic taught her there is an overall need for consumer awareness of identity protection. She noted the department was trying to help the historic number of unemployed people early into the pandemic. Of course, the security breach led to even more problems for IDES.

Richards said states across the country are still trying to understand what led to the constant security issues. They're also looking into what employment security departments did wrong in response.

Richards pushed for more regular funding from the federal government. She stressed the current system only gives funding to states when unemployment goes up. Richards said that puts them in a bad situation.

"Unfortunately, it leaves state unemployment insurance systems in this place of not being able to find the resources to modernize. The criminals move quicker than we do," Richards said.

Single log-in and multi-factor authentification

IDES is currently working with the Department of Innovation and Technology to implement a new online system that allows people to use a single log-in and multi-factor authentification. DOIT officials say the federal government encourages states to use this modern security feature to protect personal information and state systems.

Adam Ford is the Chief Information Security Officer for DOIT. He calls the process more secure than the state's initial protocol.

"In some ways, this is standing in for going to a location and presenting your Secretary of State driver's license in front of someone. They review it while performing additional digital assessments of individuals," Ford said.

Return to in-person office hours

Meanwhile, the Department of Employment Security isn't telling lawmakers how much the state paid out to criminals in fraudulent claims. Richards said her agency is still trying to gather that information.

IDES recently opened 18 offices across the state to help people with unemployment issues. However, you must make an appointment, and those offices are only open from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. It's also unknown when all of the other IDES locations will reopen to the public.

Rep. Dan Caulkins asked officials if they believe the state would have seen fewer fraudulent claims if IDES offices remained open throughout the pandemic.

Jon Coss, Vice President of Risk, Fraud, and Compliance for Thompson Reuters, told lawmakers internet services allow for more fraud. Coss said that was part of the perfect storm for state agencies during this pandemic. However, he explained in-person interactions could certainly decrease the amount of fraud.

"Unfortunately, it also increases wait times, backlogs, delays in payments. So it's kind of that Catch 22," Coss said. "Of course you're in a pandemic that requires people to come to be in line. You were telling Americans they didn't need to do that to vote, to go to banks, and other issues. It's a very difficult situation. Face-to-face meetings will always reduce the opportunity for fraud. But it's difficult during times like this."

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Mike Miletich

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