Missouri teachers looking for more transparency surrounding data vulnerability incident

Education

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Teachers statewide are speaking out about information security concerns.

It all comes after the news was released last week surrounding Social Security numbers allegedly being accessed on the state board of education’s website by a St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter.

DESE said through a multi-step process, the individual took the records of at least three educators, unencrypted the source code from the webpage, and viewed the social security number of those specific educators.

The newspaper claims Social Security numbers of school teachers, administrators, and counselors across Missouri were vulnerable to public exposure due to programming shortcomings on DESE’s website.

They said the vulnerability was discovered in a web application that allowed the public to search teacher certifications and credentials.

Missouri State Teachers Association Director of Communication, Todd Fuller, said regardless of the situation, it never should have happened in the first place.

“We don’t want the fact to get lost that teachers’ data may have been accessed inadvertently,” Fuller said. “Regardless of who did it, you wanna make sure they’re protected and so that’s what we need to do moving forward, make sure that any kind of vulnerability is eliminated and that teachers’, any kind of educator data, is protected on any website.”

Fuller said teachers are frustrated with the lack of transparency surrounding the situation.

“You want to find out directly from the entity that has your information and that was actually accessed,” Fuller said. “You want to find out from them directly, and that didn’t necessarily happen in the case of DESE.”

The association issued a statement saying in part, “When Missouri educators share personal information with state agencies, they should be confident that information will remain protected. Unfortunately, that confidence was eroded when it was revealed that personal information of Missouri teachers was accessible through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.”

He said teachers are now paying close attention to keeping all their information secure.

“Just making sure that you’re vigilant at this time,” Fuller said. “That you’re checking your information to make sure nothing has been accessed.”

Officials with the Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri also said last month they experienced a data security incident.

An employee’s email account was accessed by an unauthorized individual, but there was no access to the internal operating system.

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