Back in October Missouri governor Mike Parson, decided to hold a press conference and sling accusations against a reporter. The charge? Hacking. The crime? Viewing the HTML code in a browser of a publicly-available webpage. It took many months to get some resolution to this, but the prosecutor has decided to not press charges. Rational thinking prevails. Jon Brodkin at ArsTechnica has more.
Post-Dispatch reporter Josh Renaud had been facing the threat of prosecution since his discovery that the state website’s HTML source code exposed the full Social Security numbers of teachers and other school employees in unencrypted form. Renaud merely viewed the website’s HTML and converted the Social Security numbers into plain text, and he gave the state time to close the gaping security hole before publishing his findings.ArsTechnica
On Friday, Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson issued a statement saying he has closed the investigation without charges: There is an argument to be made that there was a violation of law. However, upon a review of the case file, the issues at the heart of the investigation have been resolved through non-legal means.
It is difficult to believe this was a real ordeal. It involved a news reporter AND the security expert Renaud hired to validate the security issue. However, you have someone in power who has no clue about how the basics of the web work. When (I would hope) someone on his team advises him how things actually work, but he continues to sling outrageous accusations, you get into pure malice.
Viewing the HTML source code of a website is hardly a crime nor something you need specialized tools to do. The ability to view HTML has been a feature within a browser since the very beginning of the web. It is literally the fundamentals of how a website is sent to your computer and displayed by your browser.