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Missouri budget officials outline $50 million cost of data breach

Missouri budget officials outline $50 million cost of data breach

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Gov. Mike Parson press conference

After the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported first to the state and then in a news story that teacher Social Security numbers were at risk of exposure on a state website, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday that the state would investigate, calling the newspaper’s actions “hacking.” (Screengrab from video)

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Help for roughly 100,000 teachers whose Social Security numbers were made vulnerable in a massive state data breach could cost Missouri as much as $50 million, the governor's office confirmed Tuesday.

The estimate includes the cost of credit monitoring and a call center to help affected teachers.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s spokeswoman on Tuesday confirmed reports from state House budget officials that explained the $50 million price tag. The information was publicized by Democratic House lawmakers.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which broke the news about the security flaw last week, discovered the vulnerability in a web application that allowed the public to search teacher certifications and credentials.

Parson, who has deflected his administration's responsibility for the breach and instead cast blame on the newspaper for identifying the issue and warning the education department about it, last week said the breach “may cost Missouri taxpayers as much as $50 million and divert workers and resources from other state agencies.”

Parson declined to answer questions after slamming the Post-Dispatch in a livestreamed press conference last week. Until House Democrats publicized the $50 million cost breakdown Tuesday, Parson's office had declined to provide further information, citing a pending investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Spokeswoman Kelli Jones in an email Tuesday said the administration doesn’t have a cost estimate for the investigation yet.

Parson has also said his administration flagged the security issue to the Cole County prosecutor.

“During his tirade last week against the free press, Governor Parson strongly implied the state’s investigation and prosecution of a Post-Dispatch reporter would cost Missouri taxpayers $50 million,” Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth said in a statement.

Merideth said Democratic lawmakers' inquiry to Parson's administration instead found that most of the estimated $50 million would pay for “credit monitoring for teachers put at risk by the state’s mistake.”

He called that a "much worthier endeavor than bullying a reporter who did the right thing by bringing this issue to light.”

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