Feeds

Judge refuses to lift order squelching students' subway card hack

Can't get no relief

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A federal judge has refused to strike down an order gagging three Massachusetts Institute of Technology undergraduates from discussing gaping security holes in electronic payment systems used by Boston's transit agency.

US District Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. let a previous order stand, despite arguments from Electronic Frontier Foundation attorneys that it is an unconstitutional infringement on the students' free speech rights. The judge also ordered the trio to turn over additional documents.

Rebecca Jeschke, a spokeswoman with the EFF, said lawyers planned to "seek relief" in federal appeals court as soon as possible.

Thursday's hearing came five days after the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority obtained a temporary restraining order forbidding Zack Anderson, RJ Ryan and Alessandro Chiesa from discussing their research at the Defcon hacking conference. The students had been scheduled to deliver a talk exposing flaws in the MBTA's CharlieTicket and CharlieCard, which passengers use to pay fares electronically on the Boston subway system.

O'Toole effectively put off making a decision on the EFF's constitutional arguments until a hearing on Tuesday, when the temporary restraining order is scheduled to expire. The EFF had asked O'Toole to lift the order immediately.

O'Toole ordered the trio to turn over a report they prepared for Ronald Rivest, the renowned cryptographer and MIT professor who awarded his students an A for their research. They are also required to surrender code that was to accompany their Defcon presentation and email they exchanged with conference organizers. An 87-slide presentation (PDF) has been available on MIT's website for weeks now, and the students have also furnished the agency with an executive summary of their research.

Before the TRO was issued, Anderson said their research uncovered trivial ways to add hundreds of dollars in fare value to the cards. He said he and his colleagues never intended to show MBTA passengers how to do so. Some statements included in their presentation slides suggest the students planned to go beyond that limited scope.

The TRO was issued after a separate judge, Douglas Woodlock, found the MBTA was likely to prove the students violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. EFF attorneys argue the statute governs the transmission of code to computers, not the verbal or written discussion of vulnerabilities.

Jim Kerstetter of CNET News, attended the hearing and has more here. The Tech, an MIT student newspaper, provides a detailed discussion of the research here. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Mozilla, EFF, Cisco back free-as-in-FREE-BEER SSL cert authority
Let’s Encrypt to give HTTPS-everywhere a boost in 2015
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.