Problems with OV-chipcard persist as ever
By Jeroen van der Ham
After PC Active recently announced the OV-chip card had been cracked by resetting so-called images on anonymous OV-chip cards, the gate was opened. The necessary software would not be made available to others by PC Active, but it was distributed fairly soon anyway. Journalists and MPs who subsequently experimented with the software soon came to the conclusion that hacking a public transport chip card was not as difficult as Trans Link Systems (the company behind the public transport chip card) had previously led the public to believe. It also turned out that fraud detection had failed considerably: many frauds had not been detected or bypassed. This despite the TLS director's expectation that no one would commit fraud with the OV-chipkaart, because "it's not allowed, so you don't do it".
Less than a week after the first hack, another one was announced: it turned out to be possible to check in the OV-chip card on your own computer and thus travel by train for free. This bypasses fraud detection because there is no checking in at the station; conductors' monitoring equipment cannot detect it. This software also subsequently became available on the internet.
To top it all off, it also became known that a specially adapted OV-chip card makes it possible to crash NS card machines. These machines must then be manually restarted. This could be a harbinger of further abuse of card machines. After all, crashing is often a first step towards further abuse, as was also seen with the iPhone and the Playstation3.
The current problems will not be solved soon. A new model OV-chipkaart will not provide an immediate solution: it was announced this week that an old and new system cannot simply coexist. The current cards are still valid for five years and until then the old system cannot be switched off. A new OV-chipkaart will emulate the old system until then and therefore continue to carry many problems.
After the first problems were revealed, the mandatory introduction of the OV-chipkaart has been postponed by a month in some provinces. The question is what will happen now that more problems have come to light in the meantime.