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Ex-worker hacked flight school to clear faulty planes to fly: police

A former employee reportedly hacked into a flight training school’s systems and changed sensitive data to clear planes for flying, despite potentially catastrophic maintenance issues.

Lauren Lide, a 26-year-old former flight operations manager for Florida’s Melbourne Flight Training school, allegedly attempted to get revenge on the school after the company fired her father, Vice reported. According to a police report, just months after her father’s firing, Lide hacked the school’s records, deleting and changing vital information, including marking certain planes as OK to fly.

By green-lighting the crafts for use, the school’s CEO said, Lide put the lives of pilots in danger. 

“[Aircraft] which may have been unsafe to fly were purposely made ‘airworthy,’” read an affidavit, Florida’s News Channel 8 reported

The bitter worker now faces charges including fraudulent computer use and two counts of unauthorized access to a computer network. 

Her alleged tamperings were first noticed on Jan. 12, 2020, when the flight school’s CEO logged into the company’s systems and noticed that 12 planes’ makes and models had been deleted and that crafts previously noted for having problems were suddenly cleared. 

“Between the time the data was altered and fixed, it was a situation that could have endangered human life,” the company CEO, Derek Fallon, wrote in the affidavit. He immediately suspected that either Lide or her father, whose firing prompted Lide to resign, was behind the tampering. 

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Marketing material for Florida’s Melbourne Flight Training school.
Steve Boxall

The affidavit includes quotes from Lide’s father, who said his daughter was “miserable” at the job. “She couldn’t wait to get out of there,” he said, adding, “You guys don’t understand the torment [Fallon] put her through.”

Lide’s father initially attempted to take the heat for the sabotage, but police reported he couldn’t offer any details regarding what had been done or how he’d accessed the company’s mainframe. 

“Lauren Lide is one of only a few people in the area who had the knowledge, skills and ability to alter” the flight records, detectives ultimately decided.