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Friday, 15 October 2021 11:15

Missouri goes after man who looked at source code on state site Featured

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Missouri goes after man who looked at source code on state site Image by tsmr from Pixabay

A newspaper in St Louis, Missouri, which discovered that the social security numbers of school teachers, administrators and counsellors across the state were publicly exposed and informed the authorities, has been threatened with unspecified action by the state's governor.

The St Louis Post-Dispatch said in a report that it had found the vulnerability in a Web application that allowed world+dog to search teacher certifications and credentials.

It notified the state's Department of Education and waited until the affected pages were removed before running its report.

In simple terms, the SSNs were in the HTML code and one could see them by merely hitting the F12 key or else using the "View source" command which is present on a Web browser.

But Missouri's Republican Government Mike Parsons took exception, telling the media on Thursday: "A hacker is someone who gains unauthorised access to information or content. This individual did not have permission to do what they did. They had no authorisation to convert and decode the code.

"Under Missouri law, a person commits the offence of tampering with computer data if he or she knowingly and without authorisation accesses, takes, and examines personal information without permission. This data was not freely available and had to be converted and decoded.

"The state does not take this matter lightly and we are working to strengthen our security to prevent this incident from happening again. The state is owning its part, and we are addressing areas in which we need to do better than we have done before.

"We will not rest until we clearly understand the intentions of this individual and why they were targeting Missouri teachers."

Parsons came in for ridicule from technology industry workers as can be seen in the tweets embedded within this article.

The newspaper dismissed Parsons' threats. “The reporter did the responsible thing by reporting his findings to DESE so that the state could act to prevent disclosure and misuse,” Joseph Martineau, a lawyer for the paper, said.

“A hacker is someone who subverts computer security with malicious or criminal intent. Here, there was no breach of any firewall or security and certainly no malicious intent.”


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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