Missouri governor Mike Parson is facing criticism from technologists and journalists after he issued a scathing, technologically inaccurate statement threatening to arrest a reporter for discovering that the social security numbers of school teachers, administrators and counselors across Missouri were vulnerable to public exposure due to flaws on a website maintained by the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Josh Renaud wrote a story on Thursday indicating that the newspaper discovered issues with a web application that allowed anyone to search through a database of certifications and credentials belonging to more than 100,000 of the state’s teachers. Payment data and social security numbers were also vulnerable due to the issue.
The newspaper contacted the department and the pages were removed. All of this was done before the story was published to give the state time to rectify the vulnerability. The newspaper also held off on publishing the story to allow other state agencies to fix similar vulnerabilities in other web applications.
State officials said they were investigating how long the data was exposed. But later in the day, Parson held a press conference where he bashed Renaud and the newspaper, threatening legal action for their decision to notify