Journalist Labeled ‘Hacker’ By Missouri’s Governor Will Not Be Prosecuted
Remember when more than 100,000 Social Security numbers of Missouri teachers were revealed in the HTML code of a state web site? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s reporter informed the state government and delayed publishings his findings until they’d fixed the hole — but the state’s governor then demanded the reporter’s prosecution, labelling him “a hacker.” In the months that followed, throughout a probe — which for some reason was run by the state’s Highway Patrol — the governor had continued to suggest that prosecution of that reporter was imminent.

But it’s not. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist will not be charged after pointing out a weakness in a state computer database, the prosecuting attorney for Cole County said Friday. Prosecutor Locke Thompson issued a statement to television station KRCG Friday, saying he appreciated Gov. Mike Parson for forwarding his concerns but would not be filing charges….

Parson, who had suggested prosecution was imminent throughout the probe, issued a statement saying Thompson’s office believed the decision “was properly addressed….” Post-Dispatch Publisher Ian Caso said in a statement Friday: “We are pleased the prosecutor recognized there was no legitimate basis for any charges against the St. Louis Post-Dispatch or our reporter. While an investigation of how the state allowed this information to be accessible was appropriate, the accusations against our reporter were unfounded and made to deflect embarrassment for the state’s failures and for political purposes….”

There is no authorization required to examine public websites, but some researchers say overly broad hacking laws in many jurisdictions let embarrassed institutions lob hacking allegations against good Samaritans who try to flag vulnerabilities before they’re exploited….
A political action committee supporting Parson ran an ad attacking the newspaper over the computer incident, saying the governor was “standing up to the fake news media.”
Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader UnknowingFool for submitting the story.

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