An Australian teenager who notified a public transport agency of a serious database flaw is under police investigation.
Joshua Rogers, 16, of Melbourne, found a SQL injection flaw in a database owned by Public Transport Victoria (PTV), which runs the state’s transport system.
The flaw allowed access to a database containing 600,000 records, including partial credit card numbers, addresses, emails, passwords, birth dates, phone numbers and senior citizen card numbers.
A PTV spokeswoman said Friday police were notified as a “matter of process” because of the breach. She said she could not comment if PTV wanted to see Rogers prosecuted.
Rogers sent an email to PTV on Dec. 26, which is the Boxing Day public holiday in Australia. He described himself as a white-hat hacker, a term used to describe security researchers who do not mean harm.
”I’ve found a very serious vulnerability in the website that discloses critical information stored on the server,” according to the email, provided to IDG News Service by Rogers. “I’d like to report this vulnerability, but I’m unsure as to whom to contact.”
Rogers said he sent the email to 13 employees, including “email@example.com,” an address listed in the WHOIS domain records for PTV’s mobile site, metlink.mobi, and PTV’s CIO.
After not getting a response, he contacted Fairfax, the publisher of The Age, Melbourne’s daily newspaper. The Age wrote it contacted PTV about the issue, and Rogers learned he’d been reported to Victoria Police.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said via email on Friday that it received PTV’s report “relating to the unauthorized access to their network.”
”As the matter is currently under investigation, we are not in a position to comment,” according to a statement.
Rogers said via email that he downloaded two or three records from the database as part of his research, then deleted the data. The credit card information was incomplete, but he said was only missing three numbers.
It’s not uncommon for security researchers to go public with vulnerability information if they do not receive acknowledgement from an organization. In Rogers’ case, he went to the publisher to tell them of the flaw, but did not release details of the flaw itself or personal information from the database.
In a statement, PTV maintained that it learned of the flaw from a “third party,” referring to Rogers, and that the database in question is no longer in use.
PTV maintains the database was “illegally accessed” and that it has also reported the incident to Privacy Victoria, the state’s privacy commissioner and data regulator, according to the statement. It said the database is not linked to “myki,” the state’s transport smart card, which can be topped up with money online.
”PTV can confirm that this is the only known attack on its website,” it said.
Rogers said Friday the police had not contacted him yet. “The fact that PTV have contacted the police is no surprise, and I have prepared for that to happen,” Rogers said. They want to detract attention from their blunders, so they will go after me.”
”I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said.