Disgruntled ex-flight school employee accused of hacking data to approve grounded planes to fly

‘It was a situation that could have endangered human life,’ the flight school CEO says

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 13 October 2021 18:06
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A Florida woman is accused of hacking into a flight training school’s computer system to delete and alter sensitive data after her father was fired from the company.

Lauren Lide, 26, who previously worked as an instructor for Melbourne Flight Training school, was arrested by Brevard County Sheriff’s on charges of modifying computer programmes without authority, and accessing a computer or an electronic device without authority.

According to an affidavit obtained by WESH, authorities launched an investigation after company CEO Derek Fallon noticed planes that had been flagged as having maintenance issues had been “cleared” to fly in early 2020.

Melbourne Flight Training school grounded flights for two days after the hack

“Aircraft which may have been unsafe to fly were purposely made ‘airworthy’,” an affidavit stated.

The make, model and tail numbers for 12 airplanes had also been deleted.

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

Flights were grounded for two days until the data could be restored, and the flight school received reassurances that there was no problem with their IT systems.

According to the affidavit, the flight school CEO suspected Hampton Lide, who had been fired from his job as maintenance director at Melbourne Flight Training in November 2019 and his daughter Lauren, who resigned as flight operations manager the same day.

Law enforcement discovered the current flight operations manager’s login information had been used to access the flight school’s software. That person denied any knowledge of the hack.

Investigators then worked out that an IP address used to access the sensitive data belonged to Mr Lide.

Mr Lide told police he “didn’t have a clue” how his computer had been used to sabotage his former employer’s computer.

“I’m kinda concerned about my daughter at this point,” he told police according to an affadavit, when pressed on who may have been responsible.

The Sheriff’s Office charged Ms Lide after determining that she was one of only a few people with the “knowledge, skills and ability” to change the flight records.