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Android app enables Muni fare cheaters

I saw a comic today on NPR’s website that riffed perfectly on how the iPhone does basically everything. I especially liked it because the humor played off of the Eastern guru-on-a-mountain archetype.

Who needs a spiritual guru when your iPhone can tell you how to decode quantum physical principles?

Full disclosure: I don’t own an iPhone. Or an Android. My phone is the kind that can be dropped on the ground a hundred times and not break.

All it does is make calls, receive texts — you know, phone stuff. Not a whole mobile database/research lab megaplex.

So my knowledge of the alleged wonders of smartphones are purely based on rumor and anecdotes.

But today I learned that an Android app called “SuperReset” has been created that can help cheat the Muni system to get a free ride.  I try to live my life honestly, but hey, I have to give credit where credit is due.

Tech site Engadget explains how they do it.  Basically, people with the sneaky smartphone app and some technological savvy have been able to mess with Muni’s limited-use paper fare cards and restore the values on the cards so that they could be used again without paying.

Analysts for the firm Intrepidus Group of New York discovered the flaw last year, and demonstrated how easy it is for their Android app to alter cards at the EUSecWest security conference in the Netherlands last week.

Though the full app hasn’t been released publicly, the developers have released a limited version that shows the amount remaining on transit cards, but can’t alter it.

Corey Benninger, one of the Intrepidus analysts, explained:

“We had hoped this would be fixed … before we released this data, but understanding is that’s not planned for possibly years down the line.”

A Muni spokesman commented that the transit agency is aware of the problem, and is working on a solution. The problem is that the necessary changes would be costly.  And apparently, not too many people use limited-use cards, anyway.

Still, losing any money isn’t such a great idea for an operation that seems to be operating perpetually in the red.  Time for Muni to enter the smartphone age and get with the program, before the iPhone 43 starts offering teleportation.

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