back to article Cyborg fined for riding train without valid ticket

A self-described “cyborg” who slipped a public transport smartcard under his skin has pled guilty to riding trains without a valid ticket and copped a fine, plus costs. Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, the chap’s actual name, claims to be a bio-hacker and, as we wrote in 2017, wanted to pay for train journeys with a wave of …

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  1. J.Smith

    Is it practical to have such things imbedded within the hand? I'm thinking of practical purposes.

    1. Joe Werner

      Nah, you can have at most two cards that way - assuming you want them in your hand[1]. More than once each would be impractical, as the readers get confused.

      [1] assuming you are not flexible enough t lift your get w onto the scanners, that is...

      1. Rattus Rattus

        If they're well designed they shouldn't. I have a transport card, my work door card, and a bank card all in my wallet together and I just swipe the whole wallet over over the relevant sensor. The sensor reads the card it's looking for and ignores the others.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          How does that work with a debit card and a credit card, both with contactless chip?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            How does that work with a debit card and a credit card, both with contactless chip?

            Depends how the reader is coded. I've seen some use pre coded logic to choose a card from whatever are in range, others that refuse to process any card if there's multiple valid cards. That "pre coded logic" probably isn't as clever as it sounds, being most likely just taking payment from the first card that it recognises as valid.

            Some readers also appear confused when presented with a range of contactless cards for different purposes, others appear to be able to differentiate.

            1. Diogenes

              Opal is the latter

          2. kiwimuso

            @ac

            "How does that work with a debit card and a credit card, both with contactless chip?"

            Ha. Ha. You need separate cards for debit & credit? How quaint.

            I have a single card used for either. At the time of the transaction I choose which I shall use for payment, bank account or credit card.

            Very eco-friendly as well (if we're going down that route) as one bit of plastic less for landfill when it expires.

        2. Just Enough

          Tin foil hat on

          "The sensor reads the card it's looking for and ignores the others."

          Yeah, I'm sure that's what they tell you it does.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "If they're well designed they shouldn't."

          Oysters are not well designed....

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Oysters are perfectly designed!

            Or so I've noted when hungry and harvesting them ...

            Beer, for what should be obvious reasons.

      2. Chris King Silver badge

        "Nah, you can have at most two cards that way - assuming you want them in your hand"

        Left hand for travel pass, right hard for building access control, left buttock for Tesco Clubcard ? That gives a whole new meaning to "unexpected item in the bagging area".

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          "unexpected item in the bagging area"

          I had my Club Card implanted into my scrotum - last time I went to the doctor for an examination he said "Unexpected item in the tea-bagging area".

        2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Trollface

          Ah so thats why people jump up and photocopy their arse, they are actually trying to swipe their access card which obviously worked as it copied what was placed on the glass!

      3. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

        Nah, have the RFID placed under the fingernail.

        I know which finger I would present for inspection....

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Inbedding a chip

      The bar to call oneself a "biohacker" is so low it's underground. My dog & cat have embedded chips. I guess that makes them "biohackers" too.

      1. Jay 2

        Re: Inbedding a chip

        Hmm, I now have to be careful of my cyborg cat!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Practical????

      Given the state of things now, in 20 years it'll be mandatory.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other media seemed to imply that Mr Meow, the cyborg fellow was travelling for free. I suppose if he could hack his implant he could also recharge it or make it appear as if it had value on it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe he should have implanted it on his arse, and put a hat on it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Beyonce Knowles best...

        Yeah, 'cause if you liked it, then you should have put it on your ring. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Biohacking...

      Well if he wants silicon implants...

  3. corestore

    A breach of the terms of use should NOT be a criminal offence! He DID pay the fare and DID have a valid ticket; it just wasn't in the conventional form. But you can't tell *anything* about an NFC chip by *looking at it*; only by scanning it - which the ticket inspectors could easily have done, if they had wished to do so. Astonished he pleaded guilty.

    1. Joe Werner

      I guess as soon as that guy hacked the card into pieces it ceased to be a valid card. Hence "no ticket" (has to be glad it wasn't a Zeppelin)

    2. TRT Silver badge

      The card itself may have contained other security features such as a holosticker or a serial number in human readable form. Inspection is more than just scanning an RFID. It's the transit authority's ticket - they can set the rules about how you use it. The breaking the law bit, in the UK at least, comes from the railway by-laws incorporated into the Transport Act 2000 - being on railway premises in a compulsory ticket area without a valid ticket. In the UK a ticket bought with a discount, using an annual Gold Card for example, is only valid with the associated photo ID; even if you've paid the fare if you forget the Gold Card & ID, the ticket's not valid.

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        > The card itself may have contained other security features such as a holosticker or a serial number in human readable form.

        It doesn't. It has the word adult, the opal logo and the new government logo on it. On the back is the remember to tap off message, phone numbers, website, the card number and 4 digit security code. Certainly nothing a human can use to spot a forgery.

        I would be utterly amazed if security wasn't handled by encrypting the data it holds.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Thanks for the antipodean information...

          I've never been to Australia, or seen an Opal card. Thanks for the description.

          You, on the other hand, have never worked on or been close to someone who works on a transport system, or else you would know that the look and feel of an official card is part and parcel of spotting forgeries. Typefaces, shades of colouration, position of the logo relative to the edge of the card, areas of raised inking, peeling surfaces etc etc all can clue someone in to a potential forgery. I've seen National Rail tickets that have been confiscated as forgeries and some are very good, identical to genuine barring a spelling error on one part (that took me about 30 minutes to spot whereas for my friend who does this day in day out, it popped out like a red spot in a green field), others that are utterly laughable and would barely pass for real if flashed to a myopic, cataract ridden, disinterested member of staff in a thick fog at night.

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: Thanks for the antipodean information...

            National rail tickets are one thing, still printed bits of card, but contactless ones are another. If you use an oyster card there's no way a ticket inspector can spot a "forgery", it isn't even a relevant idea when you consider that customers on TFL (including various rail journeys) can also use their banks credit card or phone to pay. The only way the inspector can validate a ticket in those cases is with their NFC reader.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Thanks for the antipodean information...

              There are Oyster forgeries. I've seen them. Why isn't it a relevant idea? Bank cards could be forged just as Oyster cards could, and if someone handed me a dodgy looking bank card, I'd be more thorough in checking it and verifying the fare details.

              NFC bank cards operate in a different way to Oyster - when your "ticket" is checked they simply at the very least record the information proffered by your device - if it's full and correct to charge a bank account with, and isn't blacklisted, then you're allowed to go on your way. In this mode, the various taps in and out are rationalised by the back end at the end of the day (4am), and the appropriate amount charged.

              The lack of a reliable means of contacting the backend for verification of a tap in on a NFC card or device is a hinderance, and a motivation for them putting WiFi in trains and 3G/4G/LTE coverage across as much track as possible. There's another mode of operation where the inspector, who has more time than the gateline machines, can and does sometimes now wait to see if the card proffered by a passenger has actually been recorded as entering the system, but as the device/card has no memory of its own (at least not writeable by a box in a station), they have to wait for the communication to go back to base, be checked, then returned.

              It's different to Oyster where the balance is held on the card itself, a pre-set amount is deducted on tap in, the tap in is recorded on the card's memory, if inspected the reader can tell you when and where you tapped in (God help you if you haven't), then using that tap in information the correct fare can be refunded or excess deducted when you tap out. The account details are copied back to the back end for verification later and any discrepancies are updated on the card itself on another occasion.

              The point is that the definition of what is a valid ticket can be different for different means of payment. That it's a bit of orange card, a paper-printed ticket, an airline-style card, a QR code on a screen, an Oyster card, a NFC bank card or an iPhone matters little - they will have different definitions of what makes them valid. The purists would argue that the payment itself is what makes it valid, because that is what is common to all the things, but real life isn't like that.

              1. ibmalone Silver badge

                Re: Thanks for the antipodean information...

                There are Oyster forgeries. I've seen them. Why isn't it a relevant idea? Bank cards could be forged just as Oyster cards could, and if someone handed me a dodgy looking bank card, I'd be more thorough in checking it and verifying the fare details.

                It's not a relevant idea because the question is whether you can validate the fare or not. (Ignoring for the moment tangential discussion about proof of entitlement for concession fares, not at all clear that was the case here anyway.) Can you tell if someone's phone is a forgery? Once you are relying on interrogating the card (whether that's stored information on the card or checking against entry records) then how much does it matter what the piece of plastic it's embedded in looks like? People might also be a bit suspicious about a ticket inspector starting to take close interest in the details on their bank card.

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: Thanks for the antipodean information...

                  Because it's to do with the rules. It matters not a jot if the principle is the same, it matters if the rules are being followed. It matters if the TICKET is valid not if the fare has been paid. The fare having been paid is part of but not the same as the ticket being valid. How many ways can I put this?

                  As an interesting aside, for the last week or so UK transit operators whose services intersect with Virgin train routes have been told, when validating through ticketing, to accept avocados as proof of discount validity for 26-30 year olds.

                  1. ibmalone Silver badge

                    Re: Thanks for the antipodean information...

                    Because it's to do with the rules. It matters not a jot if the principle is the same, it matters if the rules are being followed. It matters if the TICKET is valid not if the fare has been paid. The fare having been paid is part of but not the same as the ticket being valid. How many ways can I put this?

                    That's the thing really, the idea of validity is simply down to the rules and, as you mention can come down to silly stuff like having an avocado. I was going to suggest only valid if whistling La Marseillaise, but Virgin have provided us with an equally ridiculous example. Let's assume in this case the guy was convicted because he didn't have the hallowed plastic surround to the NFC chip, it's not a very interesting question whether or not he did. What is an interesting question is why did they bother going to this trouble? I mean, there's no suggestion he hadn't paid the appropriate fare, why care about the letter of the rules for ticket validity in that case?

                    There are a number of possibilities. Maybe the transit authority can't actually validate the information on the chip, and rely on the card to say you have a right to be on the journey? That brings me back to the Oyster example, I could trivially (but unconvincingly) fake an Oyster card by cutting out a card from a cereal packet and writing "Oystur" on it in blue crayon. This would obviously not be very useful. I could also obtain a genuine card for £5 from any ticket machine. An inspector looking at this card cannot say it's not genuine, and there is no information recorded on the card directly connected to my journey, though I assume it's possible for someone to look up the serial number in the system. But in practice they hardly ever see the cards they validate with a reader, my Oyster is always in a card holder. Obviously if the card doesn't read then we are into the situation of someone trying to blag that they did pay a fare they didn't, but if it does, why care about the surround?

                    That brings us to possibility number two, the system isn't secure. But for the authenticity of the card to matter (I'm assuming the validity rules are for some rational reason rather than just to provide jobs to clause fetishists) it requires the system to be insecure in a particular way: it is secure enough I can't reprogram or top up the chip in the card, but at the same time uses a system where a different chip that I do control could spoof a genuine one. I can't think of many ways that could come about, except for the card simply reporting an id that's checked against a database or only accepting updates accompanied by some form of credentials.

          2. Adam 1 Silver badge

            Re: Thanks for the antipodean information...

            > You, on the other hand, have never worked on or been close to someone who works on a transport system, or else you would know that the look and feel of an official card is part and parcel of spotting forgeries.

            One of us is making some assumptions there. But Let's talk about forgeries for a minute. Do you honestly think that someone is going to go to the effort of getting a fake printed. I mean, wouldn't it be easier to steal a half used box of blank cards from one of those popup kiosk newsagencies and write your fake data to the NFC chip inside it? Then there is no difference that one can garner from typefacing or colour bleeding.

            Also, you have an unrealistic understanding about what the transit officers actually do. Four of them board a carriage from both ends, just before the doors close. Two from each side go upstairs. Two go downstairs (stopping someone doing a runner). They then ask to see everyone's card and concession entitlement if it isn't a full fair card. This involves holding a thing that looks like a 6" mobile against everyone's card, getting a bing sound, then giving it back and saying thank you. I have even on one occasion had them validate my card from inside my phone case. They have to get through the 100 people in the carriage between two stops, check concession cards, and usually write up one or two people. They're not sitting there with a black light trying to see if the NFC antenna is in the correct spot or whether it was printed upside down or whether there's an extra petal in the waratah.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Thanks for the antipodean information...

              Yes, I do think someone is going to go to the effort of printing a fake - I've seen them. My friend has shown me them. I've even run a 4-colour printing press capable of producing passable fake credit cards and plastic photo IDs onto plastic blanks in bulk, and that was in 1999. Easily detectable to the touch or with a magnifying loupe as it used a 4-colour process to simulate the solid pantone inks of the genuine articles.

              A whole generation of Oyster cards are now invalidated due to poor security implementations. Several generations in fact.

              As for revenue inspectors, I can speak only for the UK's TfL and the three mainline TOCs that my son has worked for... as a revenue inspector!

              I'm not prepared to go into depth on what would prompt a closer inspection of the ticket, but they don't need to check every ticket, though they do need to be seen to absolutely detect fakes and free loaders and to always collect penalty fares. Their role is primarily deterrent.

      2. davidp231

        "In the UK a ticket bought with a discount, using an annual Gold Card for example, is only valid with the associated photo ID; even if you've paid the fare if you forget the Gold Card & ID, the ticket's not valid."

        And you have to pony up the difference in price if you want to continue your journey.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Or pay a penalty fare.

      3. CraPo

        > The card itself may have contained other security features such as a holosticker or a serial number in human readable form.

        Not sure what country you are from TRT, but in the UK I can gain access to the Transport for London network by using contactless payment, and that inlcudes Apple/Google Pay from my phone via NFC. In this situation (which is likely to become more and more common) the actual card is immaterial. To ensure I have paid the valid fare, ticket inspectors scan the method of payment used to ensure there is a transaction. Having said that, if his card was cancelled and he hadn't tapped in, it is academic anyway.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          UK. London.

          But the point isn't "How do the prove they've paid", the point is "Do they have a valid ticket?" and there's a world of difference as I pointed out with the Annual Gold Card discount on other ticket purchases. I get 1/3 off a ticket to Manchester if I buy it whilst presenting my Annual Gold Card London commuter card. I can shout and scream and cry until I'm blue in the face, produce banks statements, receipts, little pieces of paper to show that I've paid my fare to Manchester, but if I am not carrying my annual season ticket Gold Card then the ticket isn't valid - further, my Gold Card isn't valid unless THAT is accompanied by the same numbered photo ID card. So I need THREE things before my ticket is valid. OK, I've paid the fare, but that's not enough to make it a valid ticket.

          1. CraPo

            Woosh, there goes the point flying over your head.

            The point being the difference between an Opal card valid ticket and an NFC paid valid ticket. The mechanism is exactly the same; the only difference is the the Sydney transport network adhering to the old fashioned requirement to have the whole ticket, which proves nothing. I see that they are catching up with a contactless trial (although they don't do daily/weekly fare capping like TfL do)

            https://www.opal.com.au/en/news/opalnews/news_12March2018.html

            So if Mr Cyborg had had a NFC induction loop embedded in his skin and had been travelling on the light rail or ferries, he'd have been totally legal.

    3. tip pc Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      @corestore

      For operational reasons like When the nfc readers aren’t working or they are looking for forged or stolen cards (yes I know they could just mark them as stolen in the DB) or other reasons I can’t be bothered to think of, a human needs to read the information printed on the card. That can’t be done if there is no card and only the nfc chip, hence the ticket is not valid, doesn’t matter that the chip is still electronically readable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @corestore

        All true. Still, based on the quoted terms of use, I wonder how it might have gone had he managed to implant the entire card under his skin - unaltered and not "defaced"? Would he be obliged to slice his flesh upon demand for visible inspection based on terms not cited in the article?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: @corestore

          I believe the wording of the law is "produce a ticket on demand"...

          *hands over knife*

          Hey Danny, why don't you show me your room...

    4. Adam 1 Silver badge

      doesn't sound like it

      > He DID pay the fare and DID have a valid ticket

      The card was cancelled so he hadn't tapped on. He was their traveling without a valid ticket. You can argue that they shouldn't have cancelled a card just because some feline nutter wants to cut it up and implant it.

  4. Mayday Silver badge
    Terminator

    This fellow ran for parliament

    In the same seat as the (at the time) Deputy Prime Minister was facing a by-election due to questions over citizenship.

    No, he didn't get in and the Deputy PM is no longer Deputy PM.

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: This fellow ran for parliament

      I guess you could say your ex-deputy PM won *that* catfight?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did he pay the appropriate fare for the journey?

    The whole point of a ticket is for ensuring people pay the correct fare for their journey.

    If he paid the correct fare... what the fuck are these people hassling him for?

    It sounds like the transit police were just bullies who figured they'd found an excuse.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Did he pay the appropriate fare for the journey?

      NFC devices are easily available and not that hard to program. If the manufacturers of Opal cards have not made an outstanding effort to secure their device then it may be possible to create an imitation that pretends to hold money you never paid. Being encased in plastic with a pretty picture provides (some) evidence that the chip is genuine and has not been modified.

      I can see why these terms of use are important but I would have tried hard to explain this to Mr Meow-Meow and get an out-of-court settlement rather than hope I can explain it to a judge (risky), journalists (probably not) and commentards (perhaps a few here but rest of the world: no chance).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did he pay the appropriate fare for the journey?

      Is it just me or has the quality of the comments on here taken a huge dive?

      I do wonder if the writers of these comments work in IT or are just tinkerers from other preffesions?

      1. ukgnome Silver badge

        @AC

        I have to agree with you - mainly from the great unbadged.

        Yes we have to start commentarding somewhere, and yes El Reg is quite a good (cruel) training ground. But I have to say that some comments of late seem to lack even the basics.

      2. onefang Silver badge

        Re: Did he pay the appropriate fare for the journey?

        "Is it just me or has the quality of the comments on here taken a huge dive?"

        I've noticed a big increase in the number of Anonymous Cowards commenting. Makes it hard to follow when a few of them get into an argument.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Did he pay the appropriate fare for the journey?

          "A big increase in the number of Anonymous Cowards commenting"

          You mean there isn't just the one? Well, that explains what I had thought was the unbelievably schizoid commenting by AC.

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