SWMO teachers react to new DESE cybersecurity technology offered in response to data breach

Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 3:20 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is offering 12 months of free credit and identity theft protection through IDX, a cybersecurity company, after a security flaw was detected on a state website.

The resources will be available for nearly 620,000 past and present certified educators who had their personally identifiable information contained in the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s database.

In October, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discovered a flaw that potentially exposed social security numbers of an estimated 100,000 Missouri teachers. The incident reportedly happened September 11 when a system employee’s email account was accessed by an unauthorized individual.

Susan Hansche, a teacher for Nixa Public Schools, explains her feelings on the breach.

“You feel violated. It’s almost like somebody having broken into your home,” said Hansche. “I’m not sure if scary is the right word, but certainly concerning, and definitely disappointing and frustrating.”

But Hansche is glad DESE is offering the credit and identity theft monitoring services to teachers.

“You don’t necessarily know you needed all of those tools until something breaks,” said Hansche.

Mark Jones, the communications director for the Missouri National Education Association, agrees with Hansche.

“It appears DESE and the state are doing the right thing,” said Jones.

Jones said he wishes the state acted quicker, but he appreciated the transparency during the process.

“Now that we’re past that, we have take steps so it doesn’t happen again,” said Jones. “We take steps in an open and transparent way for those who potentially were harmed to be made whole.”

DESE commissioner, Dr. Margie Vandeven, comments on the situation in a statement.

“Educators have enough on their plates right now and I want to apologize to them for this incident and the additional inconvenience it may cause them,” said Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “It is unacceptable. The security of the data we collect is of the utmost importance to our agency. Rest assured that we are working closely with OA-ITSD to resolve this situation.”

Hansche said she understands the situation because cybersecurity will never go away.

“It’s constantly something that seems to be kind of in the world, and certainly the education world, it’s always something,” said Hansche.”

Jones also said he hopes this the issue raises alarms on how this should never happen again.

“Moving forward, the goal should be that none of this information is easily accessible,” said Jones. “Then, when there’s websites created, or databases created, that access to those is limited and the top security measures are taken.”

In a news release, DESE states:

  • Potentially impacted educators will receive direct communication by mail and/or email with more details about the services offered through IDX.
  • Educators may contact the IDX Call Center at 833-325-1777 from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday to determine if they are among those eligible for these services.
  • The services will cost the state nearly $800,000.

Copyright 2021 KFVS. All rights reserved.