Aviation

Woman allegedly hacks flight training school and marks unsafe planes as airworthy

A woman has been charged after she allegedly endangered lives at a Florida flight training school by hacking its systems to “clear” aircraft with maintenance issues.

Melbourne Flight Training (that’s Melbourne in Florida, not Australia) CEO Derek Fallon alerted authorities after he noticed in January that 12 aeroplanes in the company’s system had key details removed, and several planes flagged with maintenance issues had been cleared to fly.

Fallon contacted Flight Circle, an app the company used to manage its fleet, and confirmed the changes were not the result of a systemwide problem.

He grounded the school’s fleet until the information could be restored.

The company, which is based in Florida’s Melbourne Airport, provides training for commercial and private pilots, as well as courses for aspiring flight instructors, instrument rating and other advanced pilot certifications.

An affidavit seen by NBC’s News Channel 8 said the changes to the school’s information meant “aircraft which may have been unsafe to fly were purposely made ‘airworthy’”.

“Between the time the data was altered and fixed, it was a situation that could have endangered human life,” Fallon wrote in the affidavit.

The login used to make the changes belonged to the current flight operations manager; however, NBC reported that further investigation revealed the IP address used to log in belonged to Hampton Lide, who had been the company’s director of maintenance until he was fired in 2019.

Police questioned Lide, who said he had no clue what could have happened.

When asked if he knew anyone who would want to sabotage Melbourne Flight Training, Lide said he was “kinda concerned” about his 26-year-old daughter, Lauren Lide, who had also worked for the company as flight operations manager, but quit the day her father was fired.

“You guys don’t know how [Fallon] f*cked with her … I mean he f*cked with her, and f*cked with her and f*cked with her, made her miserable, lied to her. She couldn’t wait to get out of there,” Hampton said, according to a court document seen by Vice.

“You guys don’t get the torment he put her through, and the bullshit he put her through.”

According to NBC, Hampton Lide “confessed” to sabotaging the computers, but was unable to tell police how he did it.

Police determined Lauren Lide was one of the very few people with the knowledge and skills required to alter the system’s records and arrested her.

She was charged with accessing a computer electronic device without authority and modifying computer data programs without authority.


Featured image source: iStock/Thomas_EyeDesign


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