Friday, August 15, 2008

Off to Chicago

I'll be visiting Chicago for the first time ever this weekend. Consequently, I drove in, since my return flight arrives to Logan late Sunday night. I'm excited - I've heard great things about "The Windy City."

Yesterday The Telegram & Gazette jumped on the "increase in ridership" bandwagon with an article about how more people are using public transportation instead of their own vehicles.

The state's 15 regional transit authorities have all shown monthly ridership gains of between 3 percent to 11 percent. The MBTA's Fitchburg line stations have seen an increase in parking revenue, according to the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority. For stations along this line, parking revenues are up 15 to 20 percent.

As we all know, all is not well in the world of public transportation. Since people are buying less gas, there is less money being contributed to the transportation authorities coffers.

Information Week had a great article yesterday about how efforts, such as the MBTA's, to quaff security research usually backfire. Here's an excerpt:
The problem of trying to solve security vulnerabilities like this through the legal stifling of speech are manifold. Like the fact that it does nothing to solve the underlying security problems, and steals energy away from actually mitigating the problem. Chris Wysopal summed it up very well in his Zero In A Bit blog at VeraCode:
"Security problems go away by mandating independent security testing before a product is accepted, not by trying to get security researchers to be quiet. This is a good example of how the reactive approach doesn't work. The flaws are still in the system and suing researchers has just shined a bright light on them."

Wysopal is right, and if the energy used to stifle the MIT students from publishing their research had been used to test the payment systems before it was deployed, you'd be reading about something else right now. So if you're upset at these researchers for finding these flaws, your anger is misplaced: it should be directed at the authorities for buying such a sheep of a system.

The idiocy of this all, especially now, is that the student's PowerPoint presentation was given to the thousands of Defcon attendees, and a 5-page vulnerability analysis already has become public. Not to forget, as ZDNet's Richard Koman noted earlier, that the MBTA, in its legal compliant, put a 30-page confidential report written by the students into the public record.
So what's the latest in the plight of these students? According to today's Boston Globe, the federal judge refused to lift the gag order that the MBTA imposed. He also ordered the three students to privately provide more insight into the alleged security flaws.

Have a great weeekend!! I am looking forward to riding the fabled CTA El!

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