Parson steps up efforts to prosecute journalist who discovered security breach in state site • Missouri Independent

Governor Mike Parson escalated his war with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday when his political operation posted a video doubling down on his attack on a reporter who informed the state that a state website revealed teachers’ social security numbers.

The video is produced by Uniting Missouri, a political action committee created by Parson supporters to support his 2020 election campaign. The PAC continues to collect and spend large sums of money to promote Parson’s political agenda. It operates without Parson’s direct contribution to its activities.

“The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is outright politics,” reads the ad. “Exploiting personal information is a sordid excuse for journalism. “

The announcement comes less than a week after Parson’s widely criticized demand for a investigation and prosecution of the journalist who discovered the security breach on a state website, as well as “everyone involved.” Parson read a statement calling the reporter a “hacker” to reporters gathered outside his Missouri Capitol office last Thursday, then left without answering questions.

John Hancock, president of Uniting Missouri, declined to discuss details of the video.

The Post-Dispatch did not respond to a call and email on Wednesday requesting a response to the video.

In the incident which enraged Parson, a Post-Dispatch reporter discovered that the social security numbers of teachers, administrators and counselors were visible in the HTML code of a publicly accessible site operated by the Department of Education. state education. The HTML code is programming that tells the computer how to display a web page.

The newspaper informed of the status of the problem and promised not to publish any articles until the problem was resolved.

“We stand behind our reporting and our reporter who did everything right,” said Ian Caso, editor of Post-Dispatch. in an article in his journal. “It is unfortunate that the governor chose to put the blame on the journalists who discovered the website problem and brought it to the attention of DESE.”

Parson said the Missouri State Highway Patrol will investigate and Cole County District Attorney Locke Thompson has been notified.

Thompson said on Wednesday he had not received any investigative reports from the patrol and expected none until the investigation was completed.

I don’t have any sort of timetable as to how long the investigation will take, “he wrote in an email to The Independent.

The patrol did not respond to an email requesting information on the status of the investigation.

$ 50 million in prize money

The video continuing the attack on the Post-Dispatch was posted online as Democrats on the House Budget Committee continued to question Parson’s estimate. that it will take $ 50 million to respond “to this one incident and divert workers and resources from other state agencies.”

The public school and education employee retirement system responded to a different potential data exposure on September 11 by providing the 350,000 members with credit monitoring, identity theft protection, and banking services. a call center through a contract with Experian, according to Dearld Snider, the agency’s executive director.

The cost of this response was just under $ 600,000.

State Representative Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis said the only thing lawmakers were told would come from the $ 50 million cited by Parson in the latest security breach would be credit protection and a call center for around 100,000 educators.

And since there is likely a great overlap between people who have degrees registered with the Department of Education and those who are members of the pension system, Merideth believes the final cost will be far from the $ 50 million figure of By its.

The pension system does not include employees of public schools in St. Louis or Kansas City, and it would only include those employed in private and parish schools if they had previously worked in public education.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was less than $ 100,000 for credit monitoring,” Merideth said.

The biggest cost, he said, will be to study the state’s computer systems and upgrade them to provide better service and security.

“It’s not about what the reporter did,” Merideth said, “it’s about the vulnerability and the outdated systems that we have.”

Kelli Jones, spokesperson for the governor, did not respond to requests for information on the cost estimate used by Parson.

The Missouri National Education Association said it is still trying to figure out exactly what happened, both with the data found by the Post-Dispatch and the potential loss of data in the retirement system, the door said. -says Mark Jones.

“It’s important that we take data security as seriously as physical security,” Jones said.

The union did not join Parson’s call to sue the reporter.

“Nothing tells me,” Jones said, “that the reporter did anything other than act ethically within the bounds of good journalism.”

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