Gov. Parson Threatens St. Louis Post-Dispatch

MO Gov. Parson threatens St. Louis Post Dispatch after they alerted the government of security risks on the DESE website.

In mid-October 2021, Missouri Governor Mike Parson threatened the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with a lawsuit. The threat came after a Post-Dispatch writer alerted Missouri officials of a security risk on the Department of Elementary and Secondary education website.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch themselves, “Gov. Mike Parson lashed out at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday, two days after the newspaper informed the state of a data risk that left 100,000 Social Security numbers vulnerable to public disclosure.” None of the social security numbers were publicly visible, however, they were hidden in the source code of the website, something that is easily accessible. Many of the Social Security numbers that were on the website belonged to teachers and school district staff.

Gov. Parson later called the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer a “hacker” and said that they were trying to “embarrass the state and sell headlines for their news outlet.” Gov. Parson also launched a criminal investigation by Missouri State Highway Patrol, though the results of this investigation are currently unknown.

In a more recent article, the St. Louis Post Dispatch said, “Before blaming the Post-Dispatch, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was preparing to thank the newspaper for discovering a significant data vulnerability, according to records obtained by the Post-Dispatch through a Sunshine Law request.” It is currently unknown why Parson decided to go against the prepared statements.

Attached to this article is a letter that a teacher within the Farmington School District received from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding the security risk involving Social-Security Numbers.