The Cole County District Attorney’s Office is not charging St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter for finding a data glitch that had the ability to put the social security numbers of approximately 100,000 teachers at risk from public view.
After the incident last October, the newspaper notified the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education about the data vulnerability involving the agency’s teacher certification website. the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said it gave the department time to remove the details online before publishing an article about the issue.
Governor Mike Parson threatened legal action against the newspaper. He said it took several steps to discover the flaw and he did not have permission to do what was done.
In a report by journalist Josh Renaud, he said his actions were completely legal and consistent with journalistic principles.
“Yet Governor Mike Parson falsely accused me of being a ‘hacker’ in a televised press conference, in press releases sent to every teacher in the state, and in attack advertisements aired by its political action committee,” said Renaud. “He ordered the highway patrol to open a criminal investigation, forcing me to remain silent for four anxious months. It was a political persecution of a journalist, plain and simple. Despite this, I am proud that my reporting exposed a critical issue and caused the state to take action to better protect teachers’ private data. At the same time, I fear the governor’s actions have left the state more vulnerable to future bad actors. His well-publicized threats of legal retaliation against me and the Post-Dispatch will likely have a chilling effect, deterring people from reporting security or privacy breaches in Missouri, and decreasing the chances that those breaches will be fixed.
A statement from Governor Parson’s office did not back down from the governor’s initial statement calling the incident a hack.
“The hacking of Missouri teachers’ personally identifiable information is a flagrant violation of Section 569.095, RSMo, which the state takes seriously. The state did its part by investigating and presenting its findings to the Cole County District Attorney, who elected not to press charges, as is his prerogative,” the statement read. “The prosecutor believes that the case was properly handled and resolved through non-legal means. The State will continue to work to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect State data and prevent unauthorized hacks. .
Missouri offers 12 months of credit and identity theft monitoring for teachers.
See previous stories:
PARSON THREATENS CRIMINAL CHARGES IN STATE DATA COMPROMISE
(AUDIO) GOP LAW SAYS PARSON WENT TOO FAR IN THREATENING LAW IN STATE’S FAILED APP
MISSOURI OFFERS CREDIT AND IDENTITY THEFT MONITORING TO 620,000 TEACHERS AFTER DATA FAILURE
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