MIT student defends MBTA hacking research

In an interview with The Boston Globe, the student said there was never any intention to cause "havoc."

After he's done with his security dust up with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Zack Anderson plans on slightly different work: A company that turns heat from a car's shock absorbers into energy for the car's engine.

Hopefully, a government agency won't take offense to that work, as well.

Anderson is one of three Massachusetts Institute of Technology students who were blocked by the MBTA and a judge's order from making a presentation on vulnerabilities in the T's card-based fare system at the recent Defcon conference in Las Vegas. They're still blocked from making that presentation under a gag order that expires Tuesday. A hearing will be held in federal court in Boston Tuesday morning to determine whether the temporary restraining order should be converted into a preliminary injunction.

In an interview with the The Boston Globe, Anderson defended the presentation the students planned to make at Defcon. "It wasn't to enable others to get a free fare or cause any sort of havoc," Anderson told The Globe. "It was really to show how major the issues are in this system, which also might resonate in many other systems around the world."

The MBTA, not surprisingly, doesn't seem so willing to participate in this particular scientific discourse. In a hearing last week, a federal judge ordered the students to hand over classroom material and any correspondence they've had with Defcon organizers. The students have already provided the judge and T officials with two reports, including a 30-page paper that included details the students say they didn't intend to reveal in their Defcon talk.

The students and the MBTA are still fighting over what documents they should have to reveal, including unpublished research notes. p>

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About the author

Jim Kerstetter has been writing about the high-tech industry since the 1990s. He has been a senior editor at PC Week and a Silicon Valley correspondent at BusinessWeek. He is now senior executive editor at CNET News. He moved back to Boston because he missed the Red Sox. E-mail Jim.

 

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