This college student has already earned $15 million flyer miles by legally hacking United Airlines’ website
Ryan Pickren, a student of University of Georgia Tech, has earned 15 million frequent flyer miles (worth $300,000) for exposing bugs and glitches in the United Airlines website under the United Airlines’ Bug Bounty program, according to Business Insider reports. The United Airlines’ Bug Bounty Program rewards hackers with frequent flyer miles for discovering security flaws in their website.
Ryan made headlines for his hacking skills in early 2015, when he was arrested on charges of hacking into the calendar system of rival school University of Georgia ahead of a big football game. The UGA master calendar was unsecured, and with a simple POST command, he was able to add an event that read “Get Ass Kicked By GT” at the time of the rivalry football game.
After it was discovered that Ryan was the culprit, he was indicted by a grand jury on a count of computer trespass. A felony offense that’s punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. However, Ryan was allowed to complete a pre-trial diversion program and the charges were dropped.
Ever since then, Ryan has turned his hacking progress into a lucrative side-career and has quickly become the most successful contributor to the United Airlines’ Bug Bounty Program, all while doing his majoring in computer engineering.
Ryan has now made a hobby of finding bugs. “I first started working with United because I was about to leave the state for an internship and I wanted frequent flyer miles so I could see my girlfriend back in [Atlanta] on the weekends,” Ryan tells Business Insider. “But I quickly realized how fun looking for bugs was so I just kept at it.”
Similar programs are also being run by companies like Google and Apple, wherein they usually pay out in cash.
According to Ryan, he has been rewarded with 15 million United frequent flyer miles. That’s $300,000 worth of rewards with each frequent flyer mile valued at $0.02.
Ryan’s love for Georgia Tech has made him donate 5 million frequent flyer miles to the university, which can be used for campus organization travel.
“I love everything about the school, the faculty, professors, students, and facilities. I’m a die hard ramblin’ wreck,” Pickren says.
Source: Business Insider