The Cole County Prosecutor’s Office is not charging a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter for finding a data glitch that had the ability to put the social security numbers of about 100,000 teachers at risk of being seen by the public.

Missouri Gov. Make Parson names two new department directors on Dec. 29, 2021 (Image: Office of the Governor)

After the incident last October, the newspaper informed 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 online details before it published a story about the problem.

Gov. Mike Parson threatened criminal prosecution against the newspaper. He said it took multiple steps to discover the flaw and did not have permission to do what was done.

In a statement by reporter Josh Renaud, he said his actions were entirely legal and consistent with journalistic principles.

“Yet Gov. Mike Parson falsely accused me of being a “hacker” in a televised press conference, in press releases sent to every teacher across the state, and in attack ads aired by his political action committee,” said Renaud. “He ordered the Highway Patrol to begin a criminal investigation, forcing me to keep silent for four anxious months. This was a political persecution of a journalist, plain and simple. Despite this, I am proud that my reporting exposed a critical issue, and that it caused the state to take steps to better safeguard teachers’ private data. At the same time, I am concerned that the governor’s actions have left the state more vulnerable to future bad actors. His high-profile threats of legal retribution against me and the Post-Dispatch likely will have a chilling effect, deterring people from reporting security or privacy flaws in Missouri, and decreasing the chance those flaws get fixed.”

A statement from Governor Parson’s Office did not back down on the governor’s original statement calling the incident a hacking.

“The hacking of Missouri teachers’ personally identifiable information is a clear 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 Prosecutor, who has elected not to press charges, as is his prerogative,” the statement said. “The Prosector believes the matter has been properly addressed and resolved through non-legal means. The state will continue to work to ensure safeguards are in place to protect state data and prevent unauthorized hacks.”

Missouri is offering 12 months of credit and identity theft monitoring to teachers.

See earlier stories:

PARSON THREATENS CRIMINAL CHARGES IN STATE DATA COMPROMISE
https://www.missourinet.com/2021/10/14/parson-threatens-criminal-charges-in-state-data-compromise/

(AUDIO) GOP LAWMAKER SAYS PARSON HAS GONE TOO FAR IN THREATENING PROSECUTION IN STATE’S FLAWED APPLICATION
https://www.missourinet.com/2021/10/15/audio-gop-lawmaker-says-parson-has-gone-too-far-in-threatening-prosecution-in-state-data-flaw/

MISSOURI OFFERING CREDIT AND IDENTITY THEFT MONITORING TO 620,000 TEACHERS AFTER DATA FLAW
https://www.missourinet.com/2021/11/10/missouri-offering-credit-and-identity-theft-monitoring-to-620000-teachers-after-data-flaw/

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