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College Student Got 15 Million Miles By Hacking United Airlines

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: University of Georgia Tech student Ryan Pickren used to get in trouble for hacking websites — in 2015, he hacked his college’s master calendar and almost spent 15 years in prison. But now he’s being rewarded for his skills. Pickren participated in United Airlines’ Bug Bounty Program and earned 15 million United miles. At two cents a mile, that’s about $300,000 worth. United’s white hat hacking program invites computer experts to legally hack their systems, paying up to one million United miles to hackers who can reveal security flaws. At that rate, we can presume Pickren reported as many as 15 severe bugs. The only drawback to all those free miles? Taxes. Having earned $300,000 of taxable income from the Bug Bounty Program, Pickren could owe the Internal Revenue Service tens of thousands of dollars. He’s not keeping all of the, though: Pickren donated five million miles to Georgia Tech. The ultimate thank-you for not pressing charges last year. In May, certified ethical hackers at Offensi.com identified a bug allowing remote code execution on one of United Airlines’ sites and were rewarded with 1,000,000 Mileage Plus air miles. Instead of accepting the award themselves, they decided to distribute their air miles among three charities.


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