Public transport chip card suffers another blow


chip card logo

The security of the public transport chip card (OV-chipkaart), which was supposed to replace the strip tickets in 2007, has been compromised. German hackers have apparently cracked the secret code of the chip in the card. For Rop Gonggrijp, Dutch hacker and initiator of the campaign against voting computers, the consequences are clear: “This chip card technology is gone, broken, can no longer be used.”

According to the government, the chip card will now be introduced in 2009. However, more problems for the chip card just mean more delay in implementing it. Since the chip has been cracked, travellers could travel for free. And then imagine the breach of privacy with all the data on the chip. Other companies have simply taken measures to avoid being cracked, which was not the case here.

The two German researchers presented their breakthrough at the 24th Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin late last year. Cracking this ‘Mifare’ chip has been a huge thing with hackers for years. It was done with equipment that cost no more than EUR 100.

The Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management says on their site that “The OV chip card will be phased in from 2007 starting in the Randstad. The rest of the country will have a functioning OV chip card system around 2008. The strip ticket will be abolished no later than January 2009.” The last time they announced the abolishment of the strip ticket, the government has to reverse its decision because the chip card simply did not work. The list of problems in the Rotterdam test areas include gates that don’t open, broken card chargers, money transfers that never went through and checking in through a port, but forgetting to check out. Oh and about more than 3,000 complaints.

Having spent Christmas in Oslo, Norway, I saw the exact same chip card machine everywhere not being used by people and looking vandalised. I asked my Norwergian IT friend and he said “oh that thing, that doesn’t work at all”. They use strip tickets too.

(Link and image: Volkskrant)


  1. Rich says:

    Horrible news. Why they can’t adopt a system like London or any number of other transit systems is beyond me. No system is perfect, but having a card is so much more convenient.

  2. Simon says:

    I have a London ‘Oyster’ card and have had problems too. Sometimes the card is not properly ‘read’ when entering or leaving stations. Journeys have a time limit, and I have 9once) exceeded this, and although I got my money back it was a hassle and required me to make a phone call to a premium-cost telephone helpline.

    One good thing is the ability to travel around knowing that after a certain amount of fares revenue been deducted (per day) from the card then providing the card is always ‘read’ correctly the rest of the day’s travel will be capped. Another good thing is that if i change my mind and decide to enter another fare zone then I can with ease, with the ticket system adjusting the monies it takes automatically.

    However, I still often buy ‘paper’ ‘one day’ tickets , because despite the price penalty (50p more expensive) I find them ‘safer’ I cannot suddenly find my card in default and journeys costing a lot more. London’s transport decision makers refuse to allow us to buy one day versions of the electronic ticket, which is a nuisance.


  3. Ron says:

    @rich the system is like london and people do have cards. did you read the article?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL