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Interview With MIT Subway Hacker Zack Anderson 113

Posted by timothy
from the clearly-a-terrorist dept.
longacre writes "In his most extensive interview since the DefCon controversy emerged, MIT subway hacker Zack Anderson talks with Popular Mechanics about what's wrong with the Charlie Card, what happened at DefCon, and what it's like to tango with the FBI and the MBTA. The interview comes on the heels of Tuesday's court ruling denying motions by the MBTA to issue a preliminary injunction aimed at keeping the students quiet for a further five months."
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Interview With MIT Subway Hacker Zack Anderson

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  • The battle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adreno (1320303) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:10PM (#24710289)
    I'm really glad that the court decided to overturn the injunction. We need to get information like this out in the open, so we can solve these problems quickly and in an open-source manner. Simply denying that a problem such as this exists does not solve the problem... it delays a fix, and makes it even MORE likely that such exploitation will happen in the first place.
    • Re:The battle (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:15PM (#24710363)

      Unfortunately most peoples mind are stuck in the 20th century. And don't consider how quickly these things can spread now. Say 15 years ago this happened keeping it quite would have gave them a security advantage as it is easy to control the flow of information, so for someone else wanted to break in had to duplicate all the research again. However today once you try to silence someone the information flows faster, and it is harder to keep the information down, so when a problem is found it is best to fix it then put time in hushing it up. Sorry the world follows different dynamics now adapt or parish.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by rbf2000 (862211)
        Ironically, they made far more information publicly available than the MIT kids ever intended to present by including the security report in their motion. You think they would have sealed the document, or whatever the legal term is for hiding sensitive information like that.
      • Quoting Douglas Adams:

        Only one thing moves faster than the speed of light, and its bad news which operates by it's own laws.

        Or something or other like that.

      • by SwordsmanLuke (1083699) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:53PM (#24710957)

        adapt or parish.

        That's right! Change, or we're sending you to... church!

      • Fixing thing cost money. Why would they want to spend money?
    • Container problem.
      by the time the court had acted
      1 thousands had been given a "presentations cd" as part of the conference
      2 the presentation (and additional details) had been filed in court NOT UNDER SEAL
      3 the MTBA had well and truely annoyed a large number of hackers (of various shades)

      Anybody here that wants the information and does not have it in great detail does not belong here (heck half of Digg has it info by now)

  • Obligatory IANAL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blcamp (211756) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:12PM (#24710323) Homepage

    US Constitution, Amendment I:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Did I miss something here?

    Not that I want a security system compromised, because I don't... but the 1st Amendment doesn't say "Congress shall ... abridge free speech in instances where a subway system is hacked".

    • no, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:23PM (#24710491) Journal

      Grow up - your free speech rights aren't absolute.

      There's the classic example of shouting fire in a crowded theater, for example. There's various laws against disclosing all kinds of information - medical records (go to a hospital, and you'll find signs in the elevators reminding staff to be careful when discussing patients), state secrets, etc.

      And that's not getting into the realm of lawsuits. I mean, I could go on for hours about how you molest your children while smoking crack, but you can sue me for libel and I'll lose if I can't back up my claims. If you sign an NDA and then announce a press conference to disclose stuff covered under that NDA, I can get an injunction against you to prevent your holding that press conference.

      In this case, the folks running the subway got an injunction to prevent the disclosure of the hack. And a judge looked at the evidence and decided that they didn't deserve a permanent injunction.

      • Re:no, not really (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hoplite3 (671379) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:39PM (#24710721)

        Yes, the old fire in the theater line... That's from the Holmes ruling in the Schenck case. Schenck was posting fliers bashing the draft for WWI and got swept up and jailed by the police. Holmes wrote for the Supreme Court majority that such speech was equivalent to shouting fire in a theater and Schenck (continued) his time in jail.

        Remember kids: every time someone uses this line to define the limits on free speech, they are hearkening back to rulings that undercut the very purpose of the 1st amendment.

        • Re:no, not really (Score:5, Informative)

          by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:47PM (#24710835)

          Very interesting. Further reference:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schenck_v._United_States [wikipedia.org]

          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            But, didn't Schenck's actions fail the "Imminent lawless action" test, e.g. he was urging people to disobey the law and evade the draft? You have every right to declare in public that "Law XXX is harmful", etc. But you don't have a right to say "Law XXX is bad, therefore you should break the law!". Civil disobedience is certainly morally justified in some circumstances, but it is still unlawful, as is compelling others to break the law.

        • remember kids (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:50PM (#24710913) Journal

          Remember kids: every time someone uses this line to define the limits on free speech, they are hearkening back to rulings that undercut the very purpose of the 1st amendment.

          Every time someone picks a single item from among several used to make a point and rests their entire argument on it, you should be skeptical.

          I noticed that you didn't mention the more applicable end of things, i.e., courts enjoining speech pursuant to a lawsuit, of the larger issue that free speech rights aren't absolute in the US, and never have been.

          Also, Schenck vs. US was a bad decision, and fairly un-American in my view. But what Holmes said "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic," is fundamentally reasonable, even if that justification wasn't appropriate to the case.

          • Re:remember kids (Score:4, Insightful)

            by fuzznutz (789413) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:20PM (#24711281)

            "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic," is fundamentally reasonable, even if that justification wasn't appropriate to the case.

            The keyword there is FALSELY. It is not "illegal" to shout fire in a theater. In fact, I would hope that someone would do just that in the event of a fire. The key issue of the MIT students is prior restraint of free speech simply because a party doesn't like what they believe they might hear.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by guibaby (192136)

            The "shouting fire is a theater" thing is not a Free Speech issue. You have every right to yell fire in a crowded theater. Especially if there is a fire. What you will get in trouble for is the results of your speech. Free speech is and should be absolute. But; you are responsible for the results of your speech and you always have been.

            Courts enjoining speech in a lawsuit or criminal case: This is not a law against free speech (as in congress shall make no law.) It is a judge doing his job in a specif

            • by iminplaya (723125)

              Libelous and slanderous speech causes no damage whatsoever. It is the action taken by others that causes the damage. And those who commit the action based on libelous and slanderous speech are the ones who should be punished. You're blaming the speaker. I blame the actor. Speech is not action. It is only words. And words mean nothing if nobody takes action. Here, I'll Godwin it for you. If nobody had followed Hitler's orders, how famous do you think he would be today?

              • by guibaby (192136)

                I think I get what you are saying and in some instances you are probably right. The real damage with libel and slander is the effect on what people think about the person being slandered. I am not sure it possible to regulate thought.

        • by reddburn (1109121)

          The first amendment is vague, and I'm glad of it. Congress makes no laws abridging free speech. You can say whatever you wish (unless that information is classified, in which case you have pledged to not divulge it, voluntarily abrogating your right in that instance). Without restriction, without a limit, some sort of inbuilt limit of what it would be meaningless or wrong to say, there can be no assertion nor reasons for asserting.

          The reason for the preferred legal distinction between speech and action is

        • by Chees0rz (1194661)
          That Sherlock Holmes is such a dick...
        • by discards (1345907)

          It's worth noting to say that the Holmes vs It's worth noting the Schenck ruling is no longer applicable. The only unlawful use of free speech these days is if your words present a call to "Imminent lawless action", i.e. if your words are likely to cause breaking of the law before law enforcement can intervene, such as calling for a riot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imminent_lawless_action [wikipedia.org]

          Of course, then there's libel, revealing secret information, NDAs, racism, threats... While some of these make sense,

      • by az26er (1179135)
        There's no law that prevents someone from shouting fire in a crowded theater if the damn theater is really on fire.
      • by wizzat (964250)
        You're absolutely right, free speech is not an absolute right. There are limits in place via the interpretation of the Supreme court. The current limit (which negates and overrides your "Fire In a Theatre"/Clear and Present Danger test) is the Imminent Lawless Action test.

        Check out Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for more information.

        • Yeah, I know; I wasn't so much citing the clear and present danger test as put forward by Holmes, as citing a familiar example of a clear place where the individual's right to free speech is necessarily subsumed to the greater concern for public safety. The two somehow get combined into a single thought in people's minds, however; there's another response to my original post that cites the Schenck case as the origin of the (misquoted) phrase, and manages to miss the point that the example embodied in that

      • by iminplaya (723125)

        your free speech rights aren't absolute.

        But the amendment is. It says "no law", not "no unreasonable law". Sounds pretty absolute to me.

      • by dissy (172727)

        Grow up - your free speech rights aren't absolute.

        No, you grow up, realize they ARE, and a lot of people DIED to make it so and keep it that way.
        What you say cheapens the value of human life.

        There's the classic example of shouting fire in a crowded theater, for example.

        And shouting fire in a crowded (or any other filled level) theater is perfectly legal and protected by the 1st amendment.
        It's only the end result of people getting trampled due to your actions that is illegal.

        And if you cant see the difference between cause and effect, there is no help for you, might as well stop reading here.

        There's various laws against disclosing all kinds of information - medical records (go to a hospital, and you'll find signs in the elevators reminding staff to be careful when discussing patients), state secrets, etc.

        Yea cuz there sure are a lot of medical rec

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JohnnyKlunk (568221)
      I think it's the interpretation
      the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      They're not stopping anyone from assembling peaceably, and they're not stopping anyone from petitioning the government.
      If these kids tried to petition the government to fix the system and a law was passed to prevent them then this would be a violation. However the government is preventing a party from addressing the assembly on a sensitive issue. I don't beleive this
      • by javelinco (652113) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:38PM (#24710697) Journal
        I'm sorry, but no way does this make any sense. Did you forget the frickin' OR? As in: "or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." You make no sense.
      • Re:Obligatory IANAL (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ioldanach (88584) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:40PM (#24710723)
        Maybe this will help: Congress shall make no law (((respecting an establishment of religion) or (prohibiting the free exercise thereof)) or (abridging (the freedom (of speech) or (of the press)) or ((the right of the people peaceably to assemble) and (to petition the government for a redress of grievances)))). The alleged violation is "abridging (the freedom (of speech) or (of the press))". The assembly subclause is enclosed within a different area of the clause.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by xstonedogx (814876)

          If only the Founding Fathers had known LISP!

        • by doulos05 (945501)

          See, THIS is why we should teach kids computer programming instead of civics. Because computer programming teaches you civics! I knew LISP would come in handy!

          In all honesty, I wish legal documents were written that way. It would make the extraneous statements more obvious and the legalese less dense. Then again, it would also allow for easier refactoring, resulting is shorter and more understandable documents. Putting hundreds of lawyers out on the streets... wait, I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

      • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:55PM (#24710979) Homepage

        Not saying I agree with stopping the presentation, but the right of free speech is really about petitioning the government over greivances [sic], not saying whatever you want.

        No, the right of free speech is about speech alone not being a crime for which one can be punished, or a source of harm for which one can be made liable. It's fairly obvious that freedom of speech is separate from the right to petition; just look at where the semicolons were placed. The amendment is addressing three different rights:

        1. Freedom of religion
        2. Freedom of speech, including speech via the press
        3. Freedom of assembly for the purpose of petitioning the government for redress

        You wouldn't try to argue that freedom of religion is all about petitioning the government for redress, would you? The segment describing freedom of religion relates to the right of assembly in exactly the same way as the segment about freedom of speech.

    • by stomv (80392) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:35PM (#24710647) Homepage

      The US has tons of limits on free speech, including but not limited to restrictions with respect to
        * perjury
        * profanity
        * sealed courtroom/trial
        * threats
        * slander and libel
        * classified information
        * treason

      • by russotto (537200) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:13PM (#24711199) Journal

        The US has tons of limits on free speech, including but not limited to restrictions with respect to
            * perjury

        But no prior restraint here.

        * profanity

        Most such restrictions get shot down in court; if it's about profanity in particular, they fall afoul not only of freedom of speech but of religion as well.

        * threats
        * slander and libel

        Again, no prior restraint here. And what constitutes a threat is reasonably narrowly defined, though prosecutors are always trying to stretch it

        * classified information

        You have, perhaps, heard of the Pentagon Papers case? Where the Washington Post and the New York Times could not be enjoined from publishing classified information?

        * treason

        It's awfully hard to commit treason with public speech. Laws against sedition, on the other hand, have a long history of violating freedom of speech.

        • The "Pentagon Papers" and similar cases could not be enjoined for reaons that were as much political as legal. The huge political pressures for the release of the papers could not be defeated. The confidential classification was BS, and everyboby knew it; if you read the PP you saw nothing there that wasn't already believed to be common knowledge. Furthermore, at the time the actual leaker (who had taken an oath not to release classified data) was unknown. All the newspapers did was pass along the already c

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by iminplaya (723125)

            Although what the Rosenbergs did was more spying than public speech, if atom bomb details had been published in the NYT they still would have gotten the death penalty, and again properly so. It was treason.

            Citation needed. The Rosenbergs were railroaded [encyclopedia.com]*. They weren't even charged with, or convicted of treason. And furthermore, the case shows why we should not allow grand jury testimony to be withheld from the public.

            *During the trial the prosecutor announced in a national news conference that he had secure

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by lysergic.acid (845423)

        you forgot the biggest one:

        no talking in the library!

      • You forgot the best limit - Free Speech Zones [wikipedia.org]. I grew up thinking that the free speech zone was anywhere on American soil... silly me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pbaer (833011)
        You also forgot: *copyright
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon (845873)

      Not that I want a security system compromised, because I don't...

      The students didn't hack a security system. They hacked the toll-collection system of the subway turnstiles. The MBTA made some whiny noise about the hack being a security risk but evidently the judge didn't believe their argument.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Derosian (943622)
      You aren't really missing anything. You just don't get that only Congress shall make no law, anyone else can make as many laws as they want.
    • by eeek77 (1041634)

      Read "The Hacker Crackdown." When you have the ability to cause a blackout to the phone system of an entire US region - you most definitely do NOT have the freedom of speech.

      I would enjoy reading a version of that book, written for today's circumstances.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tetsujin (103070)

        Read "The Hacker Crackdown." When you have the ability to cause a blackout to the phone system of an entire US region - you most definitely do NOT have the freedom of speech.

        And why not? Why shouldn't a student of security issues be able to discuss their findings about such a flaw with other security professionals? Why should someone, once they've gone to the trouble of investigating the situation and discovering such a flaw, be barred from legitimately profiting from that work? Just because it's inconvenient for the people who maintain the flawed system?

        It sounds like the talk the MIT students were going to give would have satisfied both sides: allowed the students to legit

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Yes you did:

      US Constitution, Amendment I:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      Right argument, wrong backing. You want the stuff to the right of the semicolon: "... or abridging the freedom of speech..."

    • I agree that this is good that the MIT student announced his findings and acted responsibly by not publishing his findings. But, I am not sure this is covered by the first amendment, although I like that amendment a lot. For example, what about credit card information? Let us assume that someone hacked into Visa's system because it was hackable. Is that free speech if someone posts private credit card information to the internet?
  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:17PM (#24710389)

    Did the MBTA learn a lesson here about making a mountain out of a molehill? They essentially took something that would have received almost no attention and turned it into a national news story and then publicly filed all the details in open court such that anyone with the wherewithal to defraud the MBTA now not only knew about the exploit but had the full details on how to do it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ParanoiaBOTS (903635)

      Did the MBTA learn a lesson here about making a mountain out of a molehill? They essentially took something that would have received almost no attention and turned it into a national news story and then publicly filed all the details in open court such that anyone with the wherewithal to defraud the MBTA now not only knew about the exploit but had the full details on how to do it.

      I doubt they learned anything. If I have noticed one thing about cases like this its that they always seem to make the same mistakes. It's really just a matter (again) of people addressing the symptom, not the problem.

    • Did the MBTA learn a lesson here about making a mountain out of a molehill?

      Obviously not since they have not fully dropped this case yet. The MBTA doesn't seem to have a full understanding of consequences either. In the interview, Anderson says that he still isn't planning on sharing the details of the hacks, even though there is nothing preventing him from doing so. I know if I were on the wrong end of a lawsuit, I would probably publish every detail of this information out of spite (unless I really t

    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:37PM (#24711493)

      So? They *might* be exposing themselves to a higher frequency of short-term compromise but frankly the people with the know-how to do this and the equipment and the will dont exist in vast numbers.

      The worst thing they could have done is 'play it cool' and downplay this. This would only encourage people to continue compromising their cards and give the MBTA little incentive to get off its collective ass.

      As it stands now, this is so publicized that every transit organization around the world is freaking out about its level of encryption. This will have some pretty positive long-term consequences.

      Im glad they didnt play it cool. The Streisand effect sometimes has unintended positive consequences.

    • Did the MBTA learn a lesson here about making a mountain out of a molehill?

      Unlikely. And, unfortunately, the "hacker" responsible seems to be more interested in his own personal integrity than in teaching them that lesson...

      You see, he said, very clearly, that he'd be sharing no details which would allow someone to trivially cheat the system. He sent them documents showing everything he knew, and explaining that he wouldn't be sharing all of this in his talk.

      And the asshats still decided to call the FBI, and to sue him.

      If this was me, at this point, I'd say "OK, you blew it, this

  • It's sounds more and more like the MBTA is just trying to cover up their mistake. This has nothing to do with public safety or stealing rides on the transit system.

    Especially this part:

    They're filing a lawsuit right now, basically, and nobody's in court for usâ"just MBTA lawyersâ"and we don't fully know what's going on.

    Interesting. So, no one at MIT was served or anything. The MBTA just shows up in court to tell their story and theirs alone? And asks for an injunction?

    At least they didn't go nu

    • by MRe_nl (306212) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:42PM (#24710759)

      the more it just seems someone at MBTA mistook their (MIT's)vulnerabilities rapport for the
      scheduled Defcon talk that Friday and panicked.
      quote/
      "The FBI agent said, basically, this is not going to be an investigation. We don't have anything here. Don't worry about it.

      So we told them we'd provide them a vulnerability report, going over what we found, and also methods that could fix these problems, and they said we could get that to them within two weeks. We had actually planned on getting it to them within the week, before business hours ended on Friday, so they'd have this in their hands before we gave the talk. We felt this was a courtesy we should give them.

      This report was not going over what we were speaking about at DefCon, that wasn't the point. Some other people at MBTA have claimed that it was, but the point of the report was to go over the vulnerabilities, and go over ways that they could fix them. That's what we provided them, and we got it to them that Friday."
      end quote/

      and that's where it went wrong I think.
      Had that report arrived monday nothing might have happened.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)
      And I notice the university didn't rush to send their own crack legal team to defend free inquiry and academic freedom.
  • by kriston (7886) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:18PM (#24710415) Homepage Journal

    Stored value cards are foolish.
    They should only ever be used for identification and authentication.
    The value being managed must always be stored and administered on the billing system itself.

    This is why the responsible agencies (EZ-Pass, WMATA DC Metro, NYC Metrocard) should not, and usually do not, use stored value cards.

    How naive of the MBTA to do this.

    Cloning is still a problem with DC Metro and NYC Metrocard, but this is relatively easy to detect using database analysis and trending.

    The security should lie with the central system.
    Stored value cards are never secure--especially if you're depending on the obsolete version of MiFare Classic which should have only ever been used for authentication (serial numbers, keys, and scanned fingerprints).

    Never for a so-called "digital purse" like MBTA used it for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by schwaang (667808)

      Stored value cards are foolish.
      They should only ever be used for identification and authentication.
      The value being managed must always be stored and administered on the billing system itself.

      OK, but if you have RFID and a weak key, an id/auth-only system still has the problem where you can effectively copy someone's card with an antenna, and then use it until $0. You just can't refill it for free as in the stored value case.

      I haven't thought about this much, but while the auth/central billing approach seem

      • by kriston (7886)

        The central system provides protection because you can trend activity and fix things afterward.
        Surely, it doesn't prevent it, but it does allow you to detect it and recover quickly.
        The stored value mode doesn't allow either, unless, maybe, the central system gets not just the fare paid but the stored value per card ID, and you're tracking that at the central system. And, in that case you might as well be using a central billing system.

        • by honkycat (249849)

          Except that the stored value + post-facto audit allows the stations to work even if they are do not have connectivity to the main server 100% of the time. You could do a daily log dump/blacklist update from the station back to the central server. Given the number of turnstiles that are broken on the MBTA at any given time, having the turnstile free to operate independently of the mothership seems critical...

      • by pjt33 (739471)

        I haven't thought about this much, but while the auth/central billing approach seems more secure (if you fix the key problem), it's got a single point of failure that brings down your entire transit system, where the lower security value-store approach does not. Maybe in the real world that's not a big deal, I don't know.

        That reminds me of an interview question I was asked a few years back which basically wanted me to sketch a design for an ATM network. As in all things engineering, there's a trade-off to be made. What you can do is have each terminal store a copy of the transaction. If the central billing system is up it validates the user's credit in real time: if not, it commits the transaction later. You can get free travel, but only if you can bring down the connection to the centre.

        • by schwaang (667808)

          Yeah that makes sense. You can always design in a workaround if you forsee the problem and the (probability of the problem) X (severity of the problem) X (effectiveness of the workaround) is high enough to justify the cost. The potential losses with the store-and-forward solution are small, like when a retailer's credit card verification system is down and they have to write transactions on paper slips. A few might be bad, but the business stays open.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flink (18449)

      Stored value cards are foolish.
      They should only ever be used for identification and authentication.
      The value being managed must always be stored and administered on the billing system itself.

      A system that must communicate with a central database isn't very useful for:
      * buses
      * trolleys
      * the commuter rail

      Where a network connection isn't necessarily available as the reader must reside on the vehicle itself.

      I'd be interested to hear how the other cities who don't use stored value cards s

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'd be interested to hear how the other cities who don't use stored value cards solve this problem.
        They kindly request the sheeple to use dollar bills, and/or money coins. It's amazing technology.
      • Busses just send the data off via some kind of modem. Doing it offline is actually cheaper over the life of a transit project by anywhere from 10-40%, but the annual operating costs are slightly higher if they went 100% offline.

        Politically, which do you think wins?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kriston (7886)

        You may have read my comment already but there is an advisory value stored on the card but it's not the authoritative record of the balance. As with the Oyster Card "hacks" in London the cards can be turned off within one day. The central billing system analyzes trending and riders are accepted into the vehicle based on the balance on the card. If that balance doesn't match with the central database the card is turned off within hours. Same happens with cloned cards which can be detected the same way ev

      • My Guess? (Score:1, Redundant)

        by /dev/trash (182850)

        Dollar bills?

    • You do a good job at sounding like you know something about the subject, but you are woefully misinformed and out of date. The reason offline stored value is not used is that it is too slow for transit. By now the speeds are probably better than they were a few years ago. The other reason is the cost structure makes online systems politically attractive. Municipalities waste 100's of millions of dollars up front for implementing online system to have going-forward operating costs negligibly lower.

      The secu

    • The security should lie with the central system.

      flink [slashdot.org] lays out one reason why central system doesn't make a lot of sense on a multimodal transit system (don't forget they also have boats).

      In the case of rail transit, a centralized fare system will also require a communications system with 100% uptime between the stations and the central system. I've had experience with the station-to-dispatch communications system and it's anything but reliable because the infrastructure is so old. The MBTA is in the process of upgrading the system but it's probably goi

    • by kriston (7886)

      I'd like to add that the flamebait posters who've replied to my post might want to investigate how Metrocard works when it comes to accessing the central database in vehicles. I would amend my earlier post to also state that the cards do, indeed, carry the balance of the card, they do not hold the authoritative balance of the card. On vehicles that do not have real-time data links the card's value is used to allow the holder to board the vehicle. The data is checked in a store-and-forward manner (like yo

  • The FBI's role (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:23PM (#24710485) Homepage

    The FBI's role should have been to offer him and his buddies a lab, security clearance and a plush job to do this kind of work for them. Seriously, these are the kind of guys that the cops want working for them because every security hole in the infrastructure they find helps the cops do their job--and these guys are smart and educated enough to help the vendor fix the problem.

  • My first weekend in Vegas after turning 21.

    Did you get drunk and wake up next to a showgirl?

  • by knifeyspooney (623953) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:56PM (#24711003)

    Having lived in Boston for five years, I don't need to RTFA to know what that was like.

    -They arrived at court 45 minutes late without apologizing to the judge
    -During oral arguments, the MBTA's attorney paused several times, each time for 5-10 minutes, for no apparent reason
    -MBTA officials wore blazers acquired off the rack for $9,000 apiece; no immediate plans to purchase pants
    -Despite earning one of the highest wages in the industry, the attorney was surly and lazy

    And, after the judge denied the MBTA's request for an injunction against the hacker, GM Dan Grabauskas issued a press release trumping the agency's legal victory.

  • The average-Joe thinks MIT students are more devious than they really are?
  • What now? (Score:2, Informative)

    by SeeSp0tRun (1270464)
    The MBTA has the information, but lets look at this for a moment. The fares in Boston went up roughly $.50 last year on the subway alone, with upwards of $2 on the rail system. This was mainly done to pay for the current Charlie Card system, as well as perform some additional maintenance and renovations in various stations. So after basically overhauling their token system, for a hefty price no less, they are going to spend how much extra for new data storage on fares? Not to mention the people that the
  • Wrong interview (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skapare (16644) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:06PM (#24711947) Homepage

    This is the wrong interview. What we should have is an interview with top management to find out why they made bad decisions to go with an insecure system. Maybe their excuse is they were not aware of a nearby school with highly qualified consultants to help them in a quest to get a very secure system.

    • by Jdogatl (836125)
      It is not just here, it is in a lot of places. This is not even the first public transit system to be hacked in this manner, this past January a group of Dutch students from the University of Amsterdam hacked the upcoming RFID system in a similar manner. This caused a big fall out since they had already invested $2 Billion (nor sure Dollar or Euro but not the point) and parliament is wondering what they can salvage of the system. Students went before the parliament and gave their opinion and suggestions.
  • Prof Rivest (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bugs2squash (1132591) on Friday August 22, 2008 @08:10PM (#24714017)
    It had to help the students that Rivest was their professor. At least his reputation in the security world goes before him.

    It it were a lesser name in the field would their claim to have been studying the security of the system been taken so seriously ?

    If it had been just some guy in charge of Mississippi state university's computer science curriculum they would likely all be in jail by now.
  • 1. Who initiated the meeting between you and MTBA? You or them?

    2. Did you ride MBTA using non-genuine fare cards?

    3. Did you walk into non-public areas of MTBA?

    That was a love-fest, not an interview.

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. -- Lazarus Long

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