Monday, August 25, 2008

OnlineSpin: Don't Mess With The MIT

Last week Seana wrote "Girl Power."

Cher Carter wrote in response, "Okay. I think we're overlooking a simple fact about women's marketing --the majority of media marketing geared towards the female audience, is still created in large by men.

I'd like to see more women involved the content and creative side of advertising that is meant for women.

Have you seen the 'most advanced piece of technology you'll ever pee on' ad? Geeze."

Ron Stitt wrote, "If marketers think they are marketing to women, then they are.

You can certainly argue that the efforts are ineffective because marketers' understanding of women's interests/needs is poor, and therefore a lot of the messaging has been off-base.

I'm just questioning the notion that 'women have been ignored.'

BTW, many would argue that a lot of messaging targeted at men is equally clueless, and based on absurd stereotypes.

So maybe the real point is that there needs to be a much greater focus on understanding target audiences before marketers reach out to engage."

Monday, August 25, 2008
Don't Mess With The MIT
By Seana Mulcahy

Greetings  dear readers. I'm not sure if anyone is out there. Seems like most are cramming in their holidays. Those of you in the good ole USA are most likely preparing to work-hard-play-hard so you can get out and enjoy a long Labor Day weekend.

I myself have recently had a major life change. I've gone from being self-employed to a full-time employee of Sapient. I'm thrilled to bits, but traveling while writing to you. Other than the close of the Olympics in Beijing last night and the same old political advertising, not much is happening in the realm of our beloved digital space.

On a local level, I had to laugh out loud (LOL) when I heard about a completely ridiculous case, the MBTA v. Anderson. It has spawned national ink (in hard copy and electronic). Nonetheless, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Agency (MBTA) has what it calls a Charlie Ticket System. It is a public transit system that's supposed to be safe and secure. Well, think again, folks. It seems a group of students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hacked the system and recently published an academic paper detailing the findings.

After submitting their proposal (as well as a detailed copy of their findings to the MBTA) the students were sued and given a gag order by the United States District Court in Massachusetts. Thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Coders' Rights Project, "launched two weeks ago to protect programmers and developers from legal threats hampering their cutting-edge research," according to the EEF, the gag order was recently lifted.

"We're very pleased that the court recognized that the MBTA's legal arguments were meritless," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn, who argued at the hearing. "The MBTA's attempts to silence these students were not only misguided, but blatantly unconstitutional." [Source: ].
For more on MBTA v. Anderson, check out h ttp:// .

I'd like to point out four points of interest:
#1 The system was proven to be vulnerable;
#2 The MBTA should be thankful;
#3 Don't mess with the MIT;
# 4 -- and by no means low on the priority list, can we say free speech, people (WTF?)

For what it's worth, the project earned the students an "A" from renowned computer scientist and MIT professor Dr. Ron Rivest.

After months, the MBTA finally admitted its Charlie Ticket System had vulnerabilities (ya think?). The company said it will take a solid five months to fix.  

So what were the students going to do with their findings (aside from submitting them in class,) you ask? Well they sure as hell weren't blogging or writing about it. The MBTA should have been thankful of that, first and foremost. However, I was able to find the white paper outlining specifics: .

The students said they were planning on presenting topline findings without details at a DEFCON conference earlier this month. The blogosphere was all abuzz with, "Anatomy of a Subway Hack."

If you have ever been out here in the Boston area, you'd see that it is unlikely folks would hack into the MBTA's RFID system versus jumping over the turnstyle to catch a subway ride for free.

I'd like to hear your opinion on the continued lawsuit as well as the gag order that was lifted. Something about gagging a hack scares the heck out of me.

Online Spin for Monday, August 25, 2008:

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