Dutch reporter won't be charged for transit card fraud

Brenno de Winter was identified as a suspect after telling the public about how Holland's new transit chip card system could be defrauded.

Dutch journalist Brenno de Winter
Dutch journalist Brenno de Winter Tony Thijs

A Dutch prosecutor has decided not to charge journalist Brenno de Winter with fraud for publicly discussing security weaknesses in the country's new OV transit chip card.

"Given the public interest, (his) meticulous work and the minimal damage caused, the prosecutor stated that the importance of freedom of information in this case outweighs (claims of fraud) and decided to close the case," a statement from the Dutch public prosecutor in Utrecht said.

De Winter told CNET in an interview that he is relieved at the decision and will now be able to resume his writing on the subject without fear of prosecution.

"I'm a happy camper," he said.

Trans Link Systems, formed by the five largest Dutch public transportation companies to create a single payment system, filed a fraud complaint with the public prosecutor's office earlier this year. De Winter, who covers security for IDG's WebWereld and other Dutch media outlets, was questioned by police in June, he told CNET last month.

De Winter wasn't named in the complaint but was "identified as a suspect" in the case, according to the prosecutor's office. He had appeared on TV and radio programs in January discussing flaws with the OV system and demonstrating how it could be defrauded, but did not release technical details. Introduction of the card was temporarily postponed, and the Dutch Parliament skipped a debate on the war in Afghanistan to discuss the matter.

A Dutch court ruled in 2008 that a university there could publish a paper discussing vulnerabilities in the Mifare Classic wireless smart card chip, after Mifare maker NXP Semiconductors (formerly Philips Semiconductors) tried to stop publication. The OV card also uses Mifare technology.

 

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