A Vancouver journalist has demonstrated that the $194-million Compass-card system can be hacked to gain free access to SkyTrain.
CTV's Jon Woodward ran an expired Compass ticket by his smartphone, showing how this simple act could open the closed fare gate at a SkyTrain system.
You can see how he did it here.
"They look like paper tickets but inside is a chip that keeps track of how long you can ride," Woodward told his viewers. "These are for single trips but CTV News was alerted to an apparent security flaw, one that allows anyone with a smartphone and two free apps to use the tickets more than once."
This is accomplished with the help of NFC technology, which rewrites the data on the ticket. According to Woodward (a UBC mathemetics grad), NFC is widely available, including on Google Wallet and Apple Pay. And he noted that similar ripoffs have occurred on transit systems in other cities.
TransLink announced in 2010 that it had selected San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems and IBM as its supplier of a new smart-card-operated fare-gate system. Cubic's lobbyists included former TransLink CEO Ken Dobell and former Millennium Line project manager Lecia Stewart.
At the time, the regional transportation authority said that the smart-card system would be operational by 2013. Delays prevented it from being completely rolled out on SkyTrain and SeaBuses until this year.