Hackers’ Delight: 1 Million Miles for Reporting United Airlines Security Flaws

Hackers’ Delight: 1 Million Miles for Reporting United Airlines Security Flaws

A United Airlines plane with the Continental Airlines logo on its tail, sits at a gate at O'Hare International airport in Chicago October 1, 2010.  REUTERS/Frank Polich
Frank Polich
By Suelain Moy

Now here’s a rewards program Julian Assange could love. United Airlines has confirmed that it paid 1 million frequent flier miles each to two hackers who found serious flaws and security breaches in its computer systems.

Related: Millions of Samsung Galaxy Phones May Be Vulnerable to Hackers

This past May, United started a “bug bounty” program to find loopholes in its security, but it’s hardly the first corporate entity to do so. Google, Facebook and Yahoo all offer rewards or incentives to hackers who report bugs to them privately. Netscape engineer Jarrett Ridlinghafer is largely credited with coming up with the concept of rewarding good, or “white hat,” hackers for trouble-shooting in 1995.

Jordan Wiens, founder of cybersecurity company Vector 35, was one of two winners to claim a million airline miles for his prize. He posted a screenshot of his mileage account on Twitter. (He submitted the bug on May 15, got a response on May 19, a validation notice on June 24 and then the payout on July 10.) A second bug he reported won a lesser prize of 250,000 miles. Kyle Lovett from Montgomery, Calif., was the other million-mile winner. Lovett Tweeted that he will use some of the miles to fly out his mother and brother to California.

No doubt the airline saved a ton of money in preventing computer issues. In recent months United has had to ground it flights twice as a result of computer system glitches. On June 2, an automation issue affected 150 flights, or 8 percent of its morning schedule. On July 8, a network connectivity issue due to a router malfunction locked up its reservations system and grounded thousands of flights worldwide.

Looks like the airline has more miles to dole out, too: Twitter was full of happy pronouncement from hackers claiming smaller prizes and begging Delta to do the same.

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”