By - 6/22/10 - 11:21 am

Funktionslust reports that if you put a CharlieCard in acetone for about 20 minutes, all of the plastic dissolves and what you're left with is some strands of copper (which act as an antenna) and the RFID chip that does all the magic. Photo.

Tomorrow, she plans to try it out to see if it still works.

UPDATE: It does.

By - 12/1/09 - 11:51 am

Bess Lomax Hawes, who wrote "Charlie on the MTA," has died at age 88, the Globe reports.

More versions:

By - 9/9/09 - 1:57 pm

The Executive Office of Transportation says that, effective immediately, student CharlieCards on the T are now good until 11 p.m. on weekdays - three hours longer than before, in a program aimed at letting kids participate in after-school programs that run late.

The office also says it is looking at creation of a new Youth Pass - available to anybody through age 21.

By - 7/29/09 - 8:14 am

The T reports CharlieCard users can now renew or replenish their cards online, by setting up a MyCharlie account.

The new system lets monthly pass holders have their cards get renewed automatically and lets users get replacement CharlieCards for lost or stolen cards. T General Manager Dan Grabauskas said:

With this new technology, customers who register their CharlieCard receive a replacement free of charge. That was a legitimate customer concern that today is an issue of the past.

By - 7/6/09 - 8:15 am

Doug reports how he got two monthly express-bus passes for the price of one, thanks to a quirky card vending machine.

By - 4/6/09 - 11:55 am

This morning, NONE of the faregates at North Station subway were accepting monthly passes. Instead, they had a single CSA manning the 'Reduced Fare' faregate, and you flashed your pass at them as you went through.

Also, the ticket machines were apparently not accepting debit cards today, as the single CSA at the gate was yelling to people who were having problems with the machines. And yes, there were no other CSAs in sight near the machines to actually help those people who had trouble.

By - 1/2/09 - 11:02 pm

Let's say you're using the toilet and as you get up, but before you flush, you realize your CharlieCard has somehow fallen into the bowl. Do you retrieve it?

By - 10/8/08 - 8:50 am

ArsTechnica reports Dutch researchers claim to have broken the encryption used to protect information on CharlieCards and similar systems:

... The group at Radboud carried out its investigation with the help of Ghost, a tag emulator, reader, and eavesdrop device that they built for around 40 euros. ...

By - 9/11/08 - 7:11 am

Maybe a slight exaggeration, but this completely caught me off guard. Charlie Card = Discount Card, and the discounts aren't bad at all.

"Just show your CharlieCard to save!

Take a look through our new CharlieCard Discount Book below - it's packed with deals you can't pass up - from arts and entertainment options, restaurants, retail stores, health and fitness services, and more! Plus, most of the listings are easily accessible by the T.

By - 8/27/08 - 9:02 am

Seems the software behind CharlieCard readers was built in Microsoft Visual C++. And guess what? It's not immune from crashing. Zeroday posts the photographic proof from the Central Square station.

By - 8/19/08 - 3:03 pm

Associated Press reports they can now talk about their own documents, the ones the MBTA put into the public record, on insecurity at T stations and with the CharlieCard and CharlieTicket system.

Via Dave Wieneke.

Electronic Frontier Foundation: The Court found that the MBTA was not likely to prevail on the merits of its claim under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Dan Kennedy: [N]ot much of a victory for the First Amendment:

... It makes a mockery of the principle that prior restraint is to be reserved only serious issues of national security, obscenity and incitement to violence.

By - 8/11/08 - 9:08 am
Pure evil

EVIL MIT HACKER steathily infiltrates the T with EVIL MIT HACKER SHOPPING CART (Source).

In focusing on the OMG EVIL MIT HACKERS angle (but also, to give them credit, the First Amendment/prior restraint angle), the media are completely overlooking the first part of the students' presentation, which discusses how easy it is to get on the T for free without using EVIL MIT HACKER WAREZ, such as, for example: Walking through unattended Charliegates and Green Line rear doors, looking through the windows in those high-tech all-seeing security kiosks, walking into unlocked rooms at Park Street that house switches connecting Charliegates to the MBTA network, etc. In case you missed it, Kaz has more.

For some reason, Dan Grabauskas doesn't seem upset about this, or maybe reporters just aren't asking him about it, because it's not as sexay as OMG EVIL MIT HACKERS or they haven't actually read the presentation themselves, or both.

By - 8/9/08 - 9:59 am

UPDATE: The MBTA won a temporary restraining order that will keep the students from discussing their findings. Read the judge's order (in PDF). Read the MBTA complaint (in PDF).

Wired reports the T wants to stop three MIT students from giving a talk at a hacker convention this weekend on their efforts to crack the CharlieCard system.

The transit authority, known as the MBTA, is also seeking to prevent the students from "publicly stating or indicating" that electronic passenger tickets used on the transit system have been compromised until the MBTA can fix security flaws in the system. It further seeks to bar the students from releasing any tools or providing any information that would allow someone to hack the transit system and obtain free rides.

A hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Boston on the T's request for a temporary restraining order to keep Zack Anderson, RJ Ryan and Alessandro Chiesa from giving a talk at the DefCon conference in Las Vegas on Sunday on The Anatomy of a Subway Hack: Breaking Crypto RFID's and Magstripes of Ticketing Systems:

In this talk we go over weaknesses in common subway fare collection systems. We focus on the Boston T subway, and show how we reverse engineered the data on magstripe card, we present several attacks to completely break the CharlieCard, a MIFARE Classic smartcard used in many subways around the world, and we discuss physical security problems. We will discuss practical brute force attacks using FPGAs and how to use software-radio to read RFID cards. We survey 'human factors' that lead to weaknesses in the system, and we present a novel new method of hacking WiFi: WARCARTING. We will release several open source tools we wrote in the process of researching these attacks. With live demos, we will demonstrate how we broke these systems.

Human factors? So they managed to sweet-talk some T employees to inadvertently help them out.

Anderson told the Register the trio initially contacted the T to offer their help in fixing the vulnerabilities and that they weren't planning to release specific enough details to let somebody else replicate their feats.

By - 5/13/08 - 3:54 pm

Montreal's transit authority is replacing its paper tickets with a CharlieCard-like system. Chris DeWolfe, a reporter at the Montreal Gazette, is writing a story about the new Opus Card (OK, I really have no clue if it'll feature a penguin):

Part of my story will look at how the names of smart cards in other cities have been derived from or have become part of the local pop culture. Naturally, I'm very interested by the CharlieCard.

So, what do you think about the T naming its pass after a character in a song protesting the T's predecessor? I told him the song is such a part of local character, the question is almost more how could the T even think of naming it anything else, but what do I know? You can e-mail Chris with your thoughts on the name or post them here.

By - 4/11/08 - 8:27 pm

Dee Cee reports she and other people who use WageWorks cards (sort of debit cards handed out by their employees) to add value to their CharlieCards haven't been able to do so this month:

... I have been calling every other day to WageWorks and MBTA. WageWorks is apologetic, and tell me there was a system issue with the T kiosks. Hundreds of people have been calling, asking for their money back. The MBTA is denying any fault, saying this is WageWorks' problem. One "customer service" (I use that term loosely, due to the rudeness I got) rep told me it was my own fault for a)using a WageWorks card, and b)waiting for the 1st of the month to update my Charlie Card. ...

By - 4/3/08 - 7:09 pm

Boblothrope reports trying to convert some CharlieTickets into CharlieCards only to be told he couldn't because they were already marked as discounted or something (he got them as not-on-time reimbursements). But he discovered a quick workaround involving adding all of five cents to the tickets, then trading in the new ones you get:

... Maybe if I really want to waste the T's money I'll put each 5 cent transaction on a credit card. ...

By - 3/7/08 - 9:28 pm

If you've been reading UniversalHub for a while, you may remember the Subway Knitter's CharlieCard mittens, which let you magically tap your hands at the gate to make it open.

Someone recently mentioned the pattern for these mittens on a knitting site called Ravelry. And you should see the discussion that this caused:

By - 3/6/08 - 12:25 pm

Some chromedomes report they've figured out how to break the encryption used by CharlieCards and other "smart cards" that rely on wireless RFID connections to exchange information, such as account balances.

The trio say they are using their knowledge for Good, rather than Evil, by publicizing the possible flaw so that companies can do something about it before evil hackers start churning out zillions of counterfeit cards. One of the three is currently working on a PhD thesis titled Implementable Privacy for RFID Systems (that page also has a video of a talk on the issue).

Nohl and his colleagues "dissected" the MiFare chip to reveal each of the five layers of circuitry that make up the chip and produce the encryption. To do so, they looked at the chip under a conventional optical microscope, and used micro-polishing sandpaper to remove a few microns of material at a time to reveal each layer of circuitry, which then was digitally photographed.

Via Hiawatha Bray.

By - 2/1/08 - 10:26 am

Jason reports on his futile effort to put a monthly pass on his CharlieCard on the Orange Line this morning, starting at Green Street: