Whats the quickest way to get a million United miles? Maybe open 20 credit cards? Maybe MS for a while? Or maybe just find some loopholes in United Airlines’ computer systems. Two hackers did the latter, and they were awarded a million miles each.
United Airlines has had some troubles recently. Just last week all United flights were briefly grounded and more than 1,000 delayed after one such breakdown, which the airline blamed on a faulty computer router. A smaller outage occurred in June.
United operates a “Bug Bounty Program” that started in May. The program rewards hackers for privately disclosing security flaws rather than sharing them online. It was announced today that two hackers were awarded the maximum bonus of a million miles each, while other received smaller amounts.
United spokesman Luke Punzenberger declined to say what kinds of flaws the hackers found but said their information had been turned over to company researchers. “We’re confident that our systems are secure,” he said.
In return for receiving their flight rewards, hackers are forbidden from revealing the nature of the security holes they discovered.
Bounties are common in the tech world. Companies use them to “recruit” white-hat hackers to spot security gaps before cybercriminals use them to steal customer data or crash websites. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others publish bounty rules on their sites.
Facebook, for example, asks hackers for “reasonable time” before going public with their findings. It promises not to sue or call law enforcement on tipsters if they do their best to avoid privacy violations and service interruptions during their research.
So if you want to rack up miles, you can either look out for deals and tricks or just pick up a computer programming book and become a hacker.