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Photo: Jacob Moscovitch/Getty Images)

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) on Thursday suggested he was prepared to prosecute the staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the newspaper published a story exposing a data risk on the state education department's website.

Driving the news: The Post-Dispatch notified the state Tuesday after discovering the vulnerability, which left the Social Security numbers of 100,000 staffers vulnerable to public disclosure. Parson's remarks Thursday echoed the rhetoric of a statement by the department, describing the reporter as a "hacker."

Be smart: The newspaper said the private information was not clearly visible or searchable, but was instead in the HTML source code of the pages in question. HTML source code is publicly available to anyone with a web browser.

At a news conference Thursday, Parson said the "individual" who alerted the state had gotten the private information through a "multi-step process," and that they were trying to “embarrass the state and sell headlines for their news outlet."

  • "The state is committed to bring to justice anyone who hacked our system and anyone who aided and abetted them to do so," Parson said.
  • "Not only are we going to hold this individual accountable, but we will also be holding accountable all those who aided this individual and the media corporation that employs them."

The Post-Dispatch disputed Parson's characterization, citing University of Missouri-St. Louis cybersecurity professor Shaji Khan, who noted that the content was encoded but not encrypted, so it could be seen without a decryption key.

  • “We stand by our reporting and our reporter who did everything right. It’s regrettable the governor has chosen to deflect blame onto the journalists who uncovered the website’s problem and brought it to DESE’s attention,” Post-Dispatch Publisher Ian Caso said Thursday.

Worth noting: The newspaper notified the department of their findings before publishing the story, giving the department time to remove the webpages that contained the exposure.

Go deeper

New Zealand aims to create smoke-free generation with tobacco ban

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a December news conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand officials announced Thursday legislative plans to outlaw smoking by making it illegal to sell or supply tobacco products to the next generation as part of a lifetime ban.

Why it matters: "People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco," Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said in a statement announcing the proposed law, part of the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.

FDA approves AstraZeneca COVID drug for people with immune problems

Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for an AstraZeneca COVID-19 antibody drug for people with compromised immune systems.

Why it matters: The drug, Evusheld, is the first antibody therapy authorized in the U.S. to prevent coronavirus symptoms before virus exposure.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

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