Prior to two weeks ago, when this reporter alerted authorities that they had exposed critical data, anyone online was able to freely access a City of Boston automated license plate reader (ALPR) system and to download dozens of sensitive files, including hundreds of thousands of motor vehicle records dating back to 2012. If someone saw your shiny car and wanted to rob your equally nice house, for example, they could use your parking permit number to obtain your address. All they had to do was find the server’s URL.
The open online server was a file share, primarily used for municipal parking enforcement to transfer and store vehicular permit information and nearly one million license plate numbers. This was all waiting to be discovered by anyone spelunking Google for terms including “Genetec,” the name of a Canadian surveillance company that owns the popular AutoVu brand of license plate readers.