Politics, Rights, Technology

Teen Reported to Police After Finding Security Hole in Website

A teenager in Australia who thought he was doing a good deed by reporting a security vulnerability in a government website was reported to the police.

Joshua Rogers, a 16-year-old in the state of Victoria, found a basic security hole that allowed him to access a database containing sensitive information for about 600,000 public transport users who made purchases through the Metlink web site run by the Transport Department. It was the primary site for information about train, tram and bus timetables. The database contained the full names, addresses, home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and a nine-digit extract of credit card numbers used at the site, according to The Age newspaper in Melbourne.

Rogers says he contacted the site after Christmas to report the vulnerability but never got a response. After waiting two weeks, he contacted the newspaper to report the problem. When The Age called the Transportation Department for comment, it reported Rogers to the police.

It’s truly disappointing that a government agency has developed a website which has these sorts of flaws, Phil Kernick, of cyber security consultancy CQR, told the paper. So if this kid found it, he was probably not the first one. Someone else was probably able to find it too, which means that this information may already be out there.

The paper doesn’t say how Rogers accessed the database, but says he used a common vulnerability that exists in many web sites. It’s likely he used a SQL injection vulnerability, one of the most common ways to breach web sites and gain access to backend databases — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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