December 23, 2008

Lawsuit Against MIT Students Settled

Three MIT students who hacked into the Boston subway system are no longer the subject of a lawsuit from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. In fact, the students have agreed to collaborate with transit authority officials to help them tighten security control.

The announcement came about two months after the group settled a suit against the students "“ Zack Anderson, R.J. Ryan and Alessandro Chiesa "“ who were planning to present their findings at DefCon, a computer-security conference in August.

Everyone found out what they were going to say anyway: All 87 slides of the students' presentation were already online, having been given out to conference attendees on CDs before the lawsuit was filed.

The students had found a way to reverse engineered the MBTA's CharlieTicket magnetic stripe tickets and CharlieCard smartcards.

The students were represented by the Coders' Rights Project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that often represents hackers and online security experts. EFF also worked with the ACLU of Massachusetts Legal Director John Reinstein and Fish & Richardson attorneys Adam Kessel, Lawrence Kolodney, and Tom Brown on the case.

"I'm really glad to have it behind me. I think this is really what should have happened from the start," said Zack Anderson.

"We've always shared the goal of making the subway as safe and secure as can be," he said. "I am glad that we can work with the MBTA to help the people of Boston, and we are proud to be a part of something that puts public interest first."

"For professional reasons and for public interest reasons, the students wanted to help the MBTA," said Jennifer Granick, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"The best way to fix these problems is to approach them head on," said student RJ Ryan. "Now that we are on the same page, I am confident that we will be able to resolve the issues we discovered."


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