Florida officials investigate ‘malicious activity’ in state business regulation system

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Florida officials investigate ‘malicious activity’ in state business regulation systemFlorida officials investigate ‘malicious activity’ in state business regulation system

Florida law enforcement officials on Friday said they are investigating “malicious activity” that affected the state’s top regulatory agency, causing days of computer system outages and disruptions to online services.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears said the activity was detected in the agency’s system on Oct. 7, leading to online service outages through Monday.

Public online services are working again, Beshears said. But department employees are likely to face disruptions with “some system resources that support certain services” as the agency works to eliminate any additional threat, he said.

Beshears did not specify the type of services. But agency employees earlier this week complained about being unable to use their work email. They also raised concerns about not knowing whether their information had been compromised.

The agency did not publicly disclose the issue until Friday, a day after the Times/Herald asked the agency about the week-old attack.

In a prepared statement, Beshears said no evidence has been found to suggest a breach of any personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers or addresses.

The source of the attack remains unclear. Beshears only referred to it as “malicious activity.” Agency spokeswoman Karen Smith declined to provide further information.

Beshears said he asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials to investigate the security issue. FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed Friday a state investigation is under way.

“Risk posed by malicious activity on state-owned technology assets are serious, and the department will continue to work tirelessly with state technology and law enforcement partners to exhaust all available measures in deterring threats directed toward these assets,” Beshears said.

The attack on the DBPR system was separate, and unrelated to, the crash of the state’s voter registration system two days earlier on Oct. 5.

Florida’s Chief Information Officer James Grant said last week the Department of State’s voter registration portal experienced repeated outages as a result of misconfigured computer services — not a cyberattack. State officials extended the voter registration deadline for several hours as a result of the crash.

Grant said the system began working again after technicians reconfigured existing servers and gave the system a “whole lot more horsepower.”

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee initially raised the specter of a “deliberate act” of sabotage against the state-run portal, but later said no such evidence had been identified.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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