A D.C.-based company that sells a “smart card” network used on more than 200 college campuses has blocked two students from publicly describing how to override the system to circumvent building security, obtain free soft drinks and avoid paying for laundry. Blackboard Inc. obtained a court order last weekend preventing Billy Hoffman, a computer science major at Georgia Tech, and Virgil Griffith, a student at the University of Alabama, from discussing vulnerabilities in the card system at a hacker convention in Atlanta. The case has prompted heated discussion online among hackers and technology groups, because it touches on a controversial federal law that forbids people to pick the virtual locks protecting electronic content. Hoffman described breaking into a card reader installed in a dorm laundry room “with a cheap metal knife” and discovering how to trick the system into doling out free washes in an article last year in 2600, a hacker magazine. “Hopefully, this article will force Blackboard to change to a more secure system,” Hoffman wrote. Hoffman has spoken at several hacker conventions on the topic in the past two years, according to his online rsum and Bob Roth, the chief executive of another campus card provider, NuVision Networks Corp. Blackboard did not sue Hoffman immediately after the article was published because it understood that Georgia Tech had punished him, said Greg Baker, vice president of product development for Blackboard Transaction System. Georgia Tech would not say whether it sanctioned Hoffman. Full Story
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