Missouri walks away from ‘View Source’ hacking lawsuits

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A Cole County prosecutor declined to prosecute journalist Josh Renaud for hacking the state’s website, Ars-Technica reported.

View Source Pursuit

In 2021, journalist Josh Renaud from St. Louis Post Shipping discovered a security breach on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. The website exposed the social security numbers of more than 100,000 department employees. These employees included teachers, administrators and school counsellors.

Mr. Renaud discovered this by using a common browsing tool that allows anyone to view the source code of any website. Show Source shows HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc. the Post-shipment revealed the leak to the state government, which fixed it soon after. “The newspaper has delayed the publication of this report to allow the department time to take steps to protect teachers’ private information and to allow the state to ensure that no web applications from other agencies contain similar vulnerabilities.”

However, Missouri Governor Mike Parson accused Mr Renaud of hacking, saying he ‘decoded’ the HTML code and stole the SSNs in an ‘attempt to steal personal information and harm the people of Missouri’. . Mr. Parson filed a complaint against the journalist and threatened civil action.

Cole County District Attorney Locke Thompson released a statement [PDF]:

It can be argued that there has been a violation of the law. However, upon review of the case, the issues at the heart of the investigation were resolved through non-legal means. As such, it is not in the best interest of the citizens of Cole County to use the significant resources and taxpayer dollars that would be required to pursue criminal misdemeanor charges in this case. The investigation is now closed and the Cole County District Attorney’s Office will not be issuing any further comment.

Mr. Renaud also made a statement [PDF]saying he was politically persecuted as a journalist:

It was a political persecution of a journalist, plain and simple. Despite this, I am proud that my reporting exposed a critical issue and caused the state to take action to better protect teachers’ private data.

View Source in Safari

As mentioned, viewing a website’s source code is something anyone can do. Here’s how to do it in Safari:

  1. Open Safari and go to Preferences. You can do this with a keyboard command: Command (⌘) + comma (,).
  2. Click it Advanced tab on the far right.
  3. At the bottom, check the box to Show Develop menu in menu bar.
  4. In the Safari menu bar, click Develop. You’ll see tools like Show Web Inspector, Show Page Source, and more. These two elements will allow you to view the source code.

To try The Mac Observer to start.

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