Viewing net net page HTML code is now not illegal or “hacking,” prof. tells Missouri gov.

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Viewing net net page HTML code is now not illegal or “hacking,” prof. tells Missouri gov.

Viewing net net page HTML code is now not illegal or “hacking,” prof. tells Missouri gov.
Cybersecurity professor Shaji Khan sitting in a chair.

Expand / Cybersecurity professor Shaji Khan of University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The cybersecurity professor who helped clarify the Missouri authorities’s failure to present protection to lecturers’ Social Security numbers has demanded that the suppose cease its investigation into him and stop making “baseless accusations” that he dedicated against the law.

As we reported on October 14, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson threatened to prosecute and survey civil damages from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist who identified a security flaw that uncovered the Social Security numbers of lecturers and other college workers. The suppose is also investigating Shaji Khan, a cybersecurity professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who helped the Post-Dispatch journalist verify the protection vulnerability.

This is all taking place irrespective of the fact that the suppose authorities made lecturers’ Social Security numbers available in an unencrypted originate within the HTML supply code of a publicly accessible net net page. The governor’s capacity of blaming those who came across the flaw earned him frequent mockery on social media from other folks who are accustomed to the fashioned “assign supply” feature recent in fundamental net browsers.

Khan employed an lawyer to defend himself in opposition to the suppose’s accusations. On Thursday final week, Khan’s lawyer despatched a litigation care for and seek data from letter to Parson and a whole lot of different suppose companies. The letter says that Parson and other suppose officers defamed Khan and violated his First Amendment “factual to discuss freely without the specter of authorities retaliation.” The letter adds that the suppose’s investigation into Khan “would violate the prohibition on malicious prosecution.”

“Professor Khan is inclined to prevail on the merits of any case introduced in opposition to him,” the letter mentioned. “No statute in Missouri or on the federal stage prohibits members of the long-established public from viewing publicly available websites or viewing the net net page’s unencrypted supply code. No more cost-effective particular person would affirm they grasp been unauthorized to assign a publicly available net net page, its unencrypted supply code, or any of the unencrypted translations of that supply code. There isn’t very one of these thing as a probable assign off to investigate Professor Khan, and instigation or continuation of any proceeding in opposition to him would due to this of this truth be prohibited.”

SSNs despatched “to every customer to the net net page”

The letter notes that Post-Dispatch reporter Josh Renaud requested Khan to verify the protection flaw in a Missouri authorities net net page that allowed the final public to search teacher certifications and credentials. “Professor Khan agreed to verify whether the protection flaw existed finest if Mr. Renaud agreed now not to put up any account except the Converse of Missouri had yet another to present protection to lecturers’ sensitive data if a flaw became essentially recent. Mr. Renaud agreed,” the letter mentioned.

The protection flaw became uncomplicated to verify, the letter says:

The public net net page well-liked guests to seem up the credentials of Missouri lecturers. Users would possibly well perchance look up lecturers by college assignments or by their final names and final four digits of their Social Security numbers. On the synthetic hand, due to this of a essential security flaw recent in its invent, the net net page became programmed to send the beefy Social Security number of Missouri lecturers to every customer to the net net page, whether the customer became mindful or now not. That data became also programmed to be robotically saved within the guests’ net browsers…

On October 11-12, 2021, Professor Khan verified the protection flaw. He did so by:

  • Visiting the final public net net page, which became accessible by anyone and did now not require a login;
  • Attempting at the publicly available supply code, which is ready to be without enlighten completed by anyone on any webpage below the “Scrutinize” menu possibility;
  • Figuring out a suspicious fragment of the supply code known as “Scrutinize Converse” that would possibly well perchance include security flaws love the one came across here; and
  • Translating the supply code into undeniable text, which is ready to even be completed by anyone.

This whole direction of would possibly well perchance be completed by anyone in a topic of lawful a pair of minutes. None of the records became encrypted, no passwords grasp been required, and no steps grasp been taken by the Converse of Missouri to present protection to the Social Security numbers of its lecturers that the Converse robotically despatched to every net net page customer.

The net net page is composed “down for upkeep.”

Khan: The true crimes grasp been dedicated by the suppose

Khan’s letter calls for an investigation into the suppose authorities, asserting the authorities violated a Missouri law that prohibits suppose entities from publicly disclosing Social Security numbers. The suppose also violated a suppose law requiring authorities officers to present factual data to victims of data breaches, the letter mentioned:

Right here, the Converse of Missouri and its officers improperly revealed Social Security numbers of roughly 100,000 lecturers online. As yet another of informing lecturers of the character of their failure, Missouri officers chose to diminish the protection flaw created by the Converse and publicly blame the those who responsibly reported the enlighten to the true authorities. The authorities has a responsibility to expend the law and present factual data to the lecturers it failed. It did now not and composed has now not, and the authorities has due to this of this truth violated the law.

On October 13, the Missouri Place of work of Administration issued an announcement claiming that a “hacker” accessed the Social Security numbers of lecturers. This characterization is “fraudulent,” Khan’s letter mentioned. “The Converse of Missouri robotically transmitted teacher Social Security numbers to every net net page customer. No one who came across and reported this security flaw attempted to originate unauthorized win admission to to or ‘hack’ the net net page.”


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