College Hacker Hits United Frequent Flyer Jackpot

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Ryan Pickren

Ryan Pickren

United Airlines’ Bug Bounty Program just awarded 15 million frequent flier miles to 19-year-old ex-hacker and Georgia Tech student Ryan Pickren. Just last year he almost went to jail for hacking into rival University of Georgia’s online calendar, and now he’s being rewarded for uncovering, what sources say, could be up to 15 severe bugs in their system.

At 2 cents a mile that’s $300,000 worth of free flying, or about 750 free domestic flights, give or take a few.

We can’t decide what’s a better story – the youngster and the 15 million mile award, or the frightful news that United’s site is so potentially pervious.

The United story is not an unfamiliar one. Like many other similar companies do, the airline invites computer aficionados to hack into their system in return for up to 1 million miles if a major security issue is identified. It’s done legally, and just last month another 19-year-old named Oliver Beg earned 1 million miles by exposing 20 issues worth anywhere from 50,000-250,000 miles each.

Regarding Ryan, he has chosen to donate 5 million of his awarded miles to Georgia Tech, but even that sort of benevolence won’t help him escape Uncle Sam. As a result of his “win,” he could still be facing thousands of dollars in taxes. We here at Point Savvy think that United should offset those costs somehow.

What do you think? Let us know in your comments below.

H/T: Business Insider

H/T: The Points Guy

H/T: Fortune

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days – that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a fee for balance transfers.

40,000 miles

Balance Transfer
0% Intro APR for 12 months

Ongoing APR
16.99%, 20.99%, or 23.99% variable

Annual Fee
$0 first year; then $89

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