Disgruntled Former Employee Allegedly Hacks Flight System, Clears Broken Planes to Fly in Sick Revenge Plot - Report


It’s one of the sickest alleged revenge plots in recent memory — and it managed to highlight a massive security hole that could kill unsuspecting people.

According to a Tuesday report from Vice, a former flight school employee was accused of hacking into an app that manages airplanes and cleared aircraft with maintenance issues to fly.

Lauren Lide, 26, was arrested on multiple felony counts this past weekend after the former Melbourne Flight Training school flight operations manager was accused of hacking into the company’s systems and altering records.

Lide resigned in November of 2019 after her father was fired from the Florida company.

“Derek Fallon, the CEO of Melbourne Flight Training called the police on January 17, 2020, and reported that five days before, he logged onto his account for Flight Circle, an app his company uses to manage and keep track of its airplanes, and found that there was missing information,” Vice reported.

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“Fallon found that someone had removed records related to planes with maintenance issues and reminders of inspections had all been deleted, ‘meaning aircraft which may have been unsafe to fly were purposely made ‘airworthy,’ according to a document written by a Melbourne Airport Police officer.”

According to WESH-TV, Fallon said the make, model and tail numbers were deleted for 12 airplanes. In addition, inspection limitations were deleted.

While the information had been changed via a login that belonged to the current flight operations manager, the employee signed an affidavit saying the changes didn’t come from him.

Fallon determined there was no system-wide problem with the software, which led him to ground all flights until the information could be put back in order.

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

There were two suspects. One was Lide’s father, the former director of maintenance who was fired in November of 2019. The other was Lide. She quit the same day.

Investigators discovered that the IP address used to log into the account came from Lide’s father’s computer, although her father said he “didn’t have a clue” how that happened.

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When investigators pressed him, however, he said, “I’m kinda concerned about my daughter at this point.” He added that Fallon made Lide “miserable” and “lied to her.”

“She couldn’t wait to get out of there,” Lide’s father said, according to an affidavit. “You guys don’t understand the torment he put her through.”

However, her father initially seemed ready to take the fall, having “confessed” to the crime.

He couldn’t tell them how he carried it out, though, and detectives came to the conclusion that “Lauren Lide is one of only a few people in the area who had the knowledge, skills and ability to alter” the records.

Lide was taken into custody on Saturday and booked into the Brevard County Jail, according to the Daily Mail. She was charged with accessing a computer electronic device without authority and modifying computer data programs without authority.

She was released within hours after posting a $9,000 bond.

The genuinely scary part about this is that time elapsed before this was discovered — meaning planes that weren’t airworthy may have been up in the skies, potentially in the hands of trainees.

Not only that, but this is also an exploit that assumedly could be taken advantage of by someone else. It’s difficult to call what happened here “luck,” even though nobody died and no planes crashed. However, if holes in the system aren’t patched up, there’s a good chance we find out what “unlucky” really is.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture