A Missouri Reporter Is (Still) Getting Blamed For the Security Flaw He Exposed

Jack Gillum sought — and obtained — some records from Missouri Governor Parson’s office concerning the governor’s staff’s public statements and the governor’s intention to try to prosecute journalist Josh Renaud. Renaud’s crime: he discovered a vulnerability on a state website where by clicking the F12 key to view the source of a page, one could see teachers’ social security numbers exposed in plain text.  Renaud verified his discovery and then notified the state, delaying publication until the state could secure the data.

Instead of thanking the reporter and his newspaper — as the state initially planned to do — the governor did an about-face and called the journalist a “hacker” and is pushing to have him prosecuted under a state law.

Nothing has changed since the story first made news in October. The governor continues to insist that the reporter is likely to be prosecuted, while most members of the press and researchers point out the dangerous situation that would result — where people will be afraid to disclose vulnerabilities to the state.

Yes, Missouri’s law has wording that might seemingly allow Missouri to prosecute anyone who gains access to others’ personal information without their authorization, but did the law really anticipate the governor going after those researchers or journalists who responsibly disclose or report on breaches or leaks?

Gillum’s article can be found on Bloomberg, here.

So…. what will Governor Parsons do when journalists report on ransomware incidents involving Missouri entities where data involving personal information has been dumped by threat actors and viewed and reported upon by journalists?  Look at these provisions in their law:

 (3)  Discloses or takes data, programs, or supporting documentation, residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network; or

[…]

(6)  Receives, retains, uses, or discloses any data he knows or believes was obtained in violation of this subsection.

 So does that mean reporting on a data dump from a criminal hack unlawfully “uses” or “discloses” data?

DataBreaches.net does not believe that investigating and reporting on cybercrime is a crime.  See also today’s report on the ransomware attack on Carthage R-9 district.

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3 comments to “A Missouri Reporter Is (Still) Getting Blamed For the Security Flaw He Exposed”

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  1. anonymous - January 11, 2022

    wha-.
    The SSN’s were being transmitted in plain text over the wire regardless.
    Viewing the page source is not hacking any more than viewing the main web page.
    If that’s hacking then I’m hacking by reading this article.

  2. Dave - January 11, 2022

    An entity published privileged information publicly. The reporter read that information and wrote a story on it.

    The crime is that the entity failed to keep privileged information confidential, right?

    • Joe - January 14, 2022

      No… he gave them time to secure their site and he never published confidential info.

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