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Spain's employment service offline for second day after cyber attack

SEPE says no personal data at risk while unions criticize "30-year-old" equipment 


10 March 2021 06:32 PM


ACN | Barcelona/Madrid

Spain's employment service (SEPE) has been paralyzed for a second day due to a cyber attack that has prevented users from accessing its website and forced staff to keep their computers turned off.

SEPE's director, Gerardo Gutiérrez, said on Wednesday that they have working through the night and all day to attempt to restore service and that "it may not take too long to get the website up and running," at least to provide information.

He called for "calm" and assured the public that servers, personal data and the programs used to manage benefits have not been affected, and that payments would continue as normal.

Authorities have said they do not know who is behind the hack, which used the latest version of the Ransomware Ryuk virus. Spain's Minstry for Labor said the "regret the inconvenience caused" to users.

Computer experts from Spain's National Cryptology Center, as well as SEPE and SGAD (the General Secretariat of Digital Administration) are working "relentlessly" to resolve the attack.

On Tuesday, employees in Barcelona were sent home at midday, unable to use their office computers.

Compounding SEPE's problems, the USO union announced on Wednesday their intention to strike on March 29 and 30 due to the due to the workload that staff has been dealing with since the beginning of the health crisis.

Not fit for purpose

SEPE's computer systems are regularly accused of being outdated and not fit for purpose in the digital age. The pandemic forced the organization to move many of its processes online but it struggled to cope with the volume of requests to process temporary layoffs.

In November, the Catalan News Agency (ACN) learned that SEPE had not paid any unemployment benefits to those who reported having lost their jobs from August 12 in the Barcelona region – except for the few people who managed to arrange an in-person appointment.

Unions have been demanding more technological investment for months to renew equipment they say is, on average, 30 years old.


  • A man looking at the SEPE webpage, May 22, 2020 (by Aina Martí)

  • A man looking at the SEPE webpage, May 22, 2020 (by Aina Martí)