Feeds

The Boston Trio and the MBTA

How the transport bods silenced security researchers

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The annual DEFCON conference in Las Vegas in early August got a bit more interesting than usual when three graduate students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were enjoined from giving a presentation by a court in Boston.

The three - Zach Anderson, RJ Ryan and Alessandro Chiesa - intended to present both a paper and slides to the assembled masses of hackers explaining certain configuration issues with respect to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) fare card system for riding the Boston subway system. The fare card system, or Fare Media system, used stored value cards, known as CharlieCards, after a locally famous song by the Kingston Trio called Charlie on the MTA.

Let me tell you the story
Of some boys from MIT
On a tragic and fateful day
They put out some information
Kissed their career and reputation
And took for ride the MTA

The cards were subject to various cloning attacks, which would permit both sophisticated and unsophisticated hackers to create duplicate CharlieCards, and therefore evade payment for subway rides.

Needless to say, when the lawyers for the MBTA learned of the DEFCON presentation, they were not amused. While there are disputes about who contacted whom first, and precisely what information was going to be disclosed or not disclosed at the presentation, ultimately the MBTA went to court in Boston and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the release of certain information about the vulnerabilities. The TRO was eventually reversed by the court, but not until the trio was denied the opportunity to make their presentation. Of course, in keeping with the Streisand effect, where attempts to censor content merely draws attention to it, both the slides and the paper to be presented were widely disseminated in advance of the TRO.

Much of the debate over the TRO has focused on the prior restraint on free speech aspects of the case. However, more important to security researchers are the questions of responsible or irresponsible disclosure of security vulnerabilities, and potential civil or criminal liability for doing so.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Rupert Murdoch says Google is worse than the NSA
Mr Burns vs. The Chocolate Factory, round three!
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Germany 'accidentally' snooped on John Kerry and Hillary Clinton
Dragnet surveillance picks up EVERYTHING, USA, m'kay?
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
Think crypto hides you from spooks on Facebook? THINK AGAIN
Traffic fingerprints reveal all, say boffins
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
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.