The reporter from USA Today claims his fellow passenger hacked his email during the flight while he was working on an article about Apple-FBI issue.
Last year, Chris Roberts, a US-based IT security researcher exposed life-threatening vulnerabilities in United Airline’s in-flight entertainment system. The airline was then forced to start its first-ever bug bounty program.
Now, Steven Petrow, who works as a columnist for USA Today, says that he was contacted by a fellow passenger after an American Airline flight from North Carolina to Dallas, Texas who told him that he hacked his email and read all the emails.
The fellow passenger had an apparently unnaturally thorough knowledge of Petrow’s work. At first, Petrow thought he was some type of mind-reader until his fellow passenger dropped the bombshell:
“Are you interested in the Apple/FBI story?” he responded, ignoring my question.”
“I hacked your computer and read through all the emails that you sent and received while on the airplane. I did the same thing to most of the other passengers, too.”
He then went on to prove his statement by quoting, essentially verbatim, one of the longer emails that Petrow had received while in flight.
Petrow had spent most of his trip working, which involved sending and receiving emails through the American Airlines Gogo in-flight Internet connection to do his work.
Gogo wireless, which is American Airlines free internet service provided to passengers, does caution its users against transmitting sensitive data while on its network, but many people either do not read the fine print or ignore the implications. This can make one vulnerable to identity thieves and hackers, and set oneself up for further problems down the road.