In this Update:
Senate Passes Package to Strengthen Cybersecurity, Protect Victims of Data Breaches
The Senate approved a package of bills this week to improve cybersecurity in Pennsylvania and require timely notifications to citizens of government data breaches. The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
One of those bills was my Senate Bill 696, which will require any state agency, county, school district, municipality or third-party vender that conducts business with state or local agencies that experiences a data breach to provide notice of the breach to affected victims within seven days of determination.
Information security is an endless battle. Accomplished hackers are smart, and they are sophisticated when it comes to technology. They enjoy the challenge of matching wits with the technicians charged with providing IT security for government, corporations and financial institutions. That’s what makes Senate Bill 696 so important. We can only hope that the hard work of the state’s IT professionals will be effective in protecting our systems, but we must be ready to immediately respond in the event of a breach.
The measure would also require the state’s Attorney General to be notified concurrently of the breach that occurs in a state agency. A county’s district attorney would be notified within three business days if the breach occurred in a county, school district or municipality.
It is understandable that any agency victimized by a data breach would be embarrassed and reluctant to publicly report the incident, but it is certainly much more important to immediately inform citizens about the theft of their personal information so that they can take steps to protect their assets.
Also part of the package were Senate Bill 482 and Senate Bill 726, with the former consolidating administration and management of the Commonwealth’s information technology operations under a new Office of Information Technology, and the latter ensuring Commonwealth agencies have strong safeguards in place to discourage, combat and recover from ransomware attacks.
The bills now head to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Federal Government Launches Website to Provide Home COVID Tests
The federal government has launched a website to order at-home rapid COVID-19 testing kits.
Each household is eligible to order four tests. According to the website, orders will usually ship in 7-12 days and there is no cost.
These are rapid antigen at-home tests, also referred to as self-tests or over the counter (OTC) tests. They produce results within 30 minutes and no lab drop-off is required.
To place an order, provide your name and residential address. You don’t have to provide ID, credit card or health insurance information. You can find answers to frequently asked questions here.
Transition to 5G Service Will Cause 3G Cell Phones to Stop Operating in 2022
Residents with older cell phones are being urged by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Pennsylvania State Police to prepare for the phase-out of 3G cellular networks and service, which could come as early as next month.
If your mobile phone is more than a few years old, you may need to upgrade your device before your provider shuts down its 3G network and you lose service – including the ability to call 911. You should contact your cellular service provider to determine if your devices are compliant to ensure you don’t lose connectivity.
The nation’s three major wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile) have announced plans to shut down their 3G networks to accommodate more advanced services, including 5G, as early as February. That will cause many older phones to be unable to make or receive calls and text messages or use data services. It could also affect other devices that rely on 3G connectivity, such as medical alert devices, tablets, smart watches, home security systems, and in-vehicle safety, security and roadside assistance systems.
Low-income individuals concerned their 911-only phones will no longer be supported can apply for service through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program.
Tax Form Arriving Soon for Pennsylvanians Who Claimed Unemployment Benefits in 2021
According to the Department of Labor and Industry, 1099 tax forms will be mailed no later than Jan. 31 to Pennsylvanians who claimed unemployment benefits in 2021 and need the form to file their federal income taxes.
Claimants of all unemployment programs offered during 2021 will receive a 1099 tax form detailing their benefit payments. This form will be available online soon and viewable in the same system where claimants file their weekly claims. All claimants also have the option to view 1099 tax forms from previous years, if applicable.
The receipt of a 1099 form by a person who didn’t file for unemployment may indicate a case of identity fraud. If someone who didn’t file for unemployment receives what looks to be a 1099 tax form in the mail, they should report this suspected fraud immediately so the department can correct their income with the IRS and prevent any issues with the victim’s taxes.
Applications Being Accepted for PennDOT Summer Employment Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) offers a summer employment program for students who are registered as full-time college students for the Fall 2022 semester.
The deadline for receiving summer applications is Feb. 18, so I encourage anyone interested in the program to contact my office.
In addition to contacting my office, those interested must also fill out an online application with the PennDOT College Student Summer Worker posting under the open summer jobs section of the website.
The hourly rate is $14.61. Applicants must be enrolled as a full-time college student for the Fall 2022 semester, have a valid PA driver’s license and be 18 years of age before beginning work.