Police: Ex-Employee Hacked Flight School Computer

Court documents say that seven flights took place on the day that the computer hack was discovered. Adobe Stock

A Melbourne, Florida, flight school may have unknowingly flown seven unairworthy flights after a former employee allegedly hacked into the facility’s computer system, according to police documents.

Lauren Lide, 26, was arrested and booked by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office on October 9, according to the sheriff’s website. She had worked at Melbourne Flight Training (MFT) school as an operation manager before resigning in 2019, according to a Melbourne Airport Police report obtained by FLYING.

Lide allegedly “altered and deleted maintenance records for 12 airplanes,” according to the police report. Her actions, the report said, “could have had devastating consequences by endangering a human life.”

Lauren Lide Brevard County Sheriff's Office

During their investigation, police interviewed school CEO Derek Fallon, who reported the incident after discovering the unauthorized computer access, the documents said.

Fallon did not respond to multiple messages from FLYING that were left with flight school employees.

Lide’s father, who police said is not a suspect in the case, worked at the flight school as a maintenance technician, according to the report. Lide may have used another employee’s username and password to hack into the school’s data, the documents said.

When Fallon first discovered the hack, he noticed all information for the aircraft had been removed on the schedule for that date, January 12, 2020, according to police documents. All pilot instructors for the scheduled flights had been blacked out from their time slots. Aircraft information for 12 airplanes had been deleted, including make, model, and tail number. Aircraft squawks were cleared for all aircraft, the documents said, “meaning all aircraft which may have been unsafe to fly were purposely made ‘airworthy.’”

Aircraft maintenance reminders and inspection limitations had been deleted for all airplanes, which would allow them to operate beyond required inspections, according to the documents.

“There were seven MFT flights that were scheduled and took place” the day the hack was discovered, the documents said, “before the airplanes were grounded.”

It was not made clear whether any flights were actually made with unairworthy aircraft.

Lide was released on bond, pending trial.

Thom is a former senior editor for FLYING. Previously, his freelance reporting appeared in aviation industry magazines. Thom also spent three decades as a TV and digital journalist at CNN’s bureaus in Washington and Atlanta, eventually specializing in aviation. He has reported from air shows in Oshkosh, Farnborough and Paris. Follow Thom on Twitter @thompatterson.

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