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Calls to Beef Up Cybersecurity Follow Missouri Information Breach

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Friday, October 22, 2021   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Gov. Mike Parson is facing calls to get the Missouri Cybersecurity Commission off the ground after it was created by the Legislature earlier this year.

This month, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter exposed a major flaw in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website that, before it was resolved, had put hundreds of thousands of educators' personal information at risk.

State Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, said Missouri needs to beef up its cybersecurity. She noted that the new commission is meant to identify vulnerabilities and recommend solutions, but the governor has yet to appoint any commissioners.

"What I believe needs to happen in Missouri to allow for more transparency into the state of our cybersecurity program," she said, "is for this commission to be filled, and for them to get to work and start advising the governor on what needs to be done."

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and experts recommend multi-factor verification for all accounts and devices, creating unique passwords and only using sites that begin with "https" when online shopping or banking.

After learning of the problem, the Post-Dispatch alerted the Department of Education, which promptly took its pages down. When the story broke, Parson announced a criminal investigation, saying the reporter was trying to expose state information. But lawmakers, including Aune and members of the governor's Republican Party, have defended the reporting, saying it was important that the problem was identified and solved.

"Over 100,000 Social Security numbers were potentially exposed, and that's just a drop in the bucket," she said. "So as a state, cybersecurity absolutely has to be a priority, in terms of where we spend our money and where we spend our efforts."

She added that insecure data not only threatens individual Missourians but also can hurt taxpayers' pockets since preventing breaches is less expensive and more efficient than resolving cyber threats after they happen.


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