Missouri governor demands prosecution of reporter for 'decoding HTML source code' and reporting a data breach

Salus populi suprema lex esto ... or perhaps not


A Missouri politician has been relentlessly mocked on Twitter after demanding the prosecution of a journalist who found and responsibly reported a vulnerability in a state website.

Mike Parson, governor of Missouri, described reporters for local newspaper the St Louis Post Dispatch (SLPD) as "hackers" after they discovered a web app for the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was leaking teachers' private information.

Around 100,000 social security numbers were able to be exposed when the web app was loaded in a user's browser. The public-facing app was intended to be used by local schools to check teachers' professional registration status. So users could tell between different teachers of the same name, it would accept the last four digits of a teacher's social security number as a valid search string.

It appears that in the background, the app was retrieving the entire social security number and exposing it to the end user.

The SLPD discovered this by viewing a search results page's source code. "View source" has been a common feature of web browsers for years, typically available by right-clicking anywhere on a webpage and selecting it from a menu.

SLPD reporters told the Missouri Department of Education about the flaw and held off publicising it so officials could fix it – but that wasn't good enough for the governor.

"The state is committed to bring to justice anyone who hacked our system and anyone who aided and abetted them to do so," Parson said, according to the Missouri Independent news website. He justified his bizarre outburst by saying the SLPD was "attempting to embarrass the state and sell headlines for their news outlet."

Clues about official attitudes towards the breach can be found in the Missouri Office of Administration's public statement about it, which implausibly claimed just three teachers' personal data was compromised.

"Through a multi-step process, a hacker took the records of at least three educators, decoded the HTML source code, and viewed the social security number (SSN) of those specific educators," it claimed in a statement that went on to cite Jeff Wann, the Missouri state CIO.

Proving his lack of technical awareness, Parson decided to broadcast his idiotic calls for prosecution on Twitter.

Inevitably, technically aware users responded to him with all the grace he deserved.

There are other amusing memes poking fun at the man, but, like Governor Parson, Reg readers are quite capable of clicking links, using basic web browser functionality, and viewing the rest for themselves on Twitter. You don't even need to press F12 to see them. ®

Bootnote

Jen Easterly, director of the federal CISA cybersecurity agency, took to Twitter herself this afternoon with a clear statement of how sensible US government officials treat vuln disclosures.


Other stories you might like

  • India reveals home-grown server that won't worry the leading edge

    And a National Blockchain Strategy that calls for gov to host BaaS

    India's government has revealed a home-grown server design that is unlikely to threaten the pacesetters of high tech, but (it hopes) will attract domestic buyers and manufacturers and help to kickstart the nation's hardware industry.

    The "Rudra" design is a two-socket server that can run Intel's Cascade Lake Xeons. The machines are offered in 1U or 2U form factors, each at half-width. A pair of GPUs can be equipped, as can DDR4 RAM.

    Cascade Lake emerged in 2019 and has since been superseded by the Ice Lake architecture launched in April 2021. Indian authorities know Rudra is off the pace, and said a new design capable of supporting four GPUs is already in the works with a reveal planned for June 2022.

    Continue reading
  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021