Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Judge Backs MIT Hackers in Boston Subway Dispute

A Reuters newswire article, via eWeek, reports that:

Three students from the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology who found a way to hack into Boston's transit system to get free rides can talk publicly about the security flaw, a court ruled on Tuesday in a decision hailed as a victory for academic freedom.

The students from the university, regarded as one of the world's top science and engineering schools, raised the ire of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority with a paper demonstrating how someone could work around flaws in Boston's "Charlie Card" automated fare system.

They had planned to present the paper, which showed how anyone could take thousands of free rides on subways and buses, at a hackers conference in Las Vegas this month.

The MBTA sued to block that presentation, contending that it would violate U.S. laws on computer fraud. MBTA officials said they wanted to stop the students from publicly exposing the security flaws before the transit authority had a chance to review them.

U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole in Boston federal court found that presenting an academic paper would not violate computer fraud laws.

More here.


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