AOH :: ISN-1583.HTM

Airline hacker all too frequent

Airline hacker all too frequent
Airline hacker all too frequent 

By Daniella Miletic
October 25, 2005

An airline employee who hacked into Qantas's mainframe computer was
able to amass more than 17 million frequent flyer points without
catching a plane, a court has heard.

Austin Perrott, who has more than 15 years' experience in the airline
industry, yesterday admitted that he had created frequent flyer
accounts under fictitious names after he discovered a loophole in the
computer system.

Perrott found he could add false names to passenger lists once planes
had landed in Melbourne.

The County Court heard that Perrott, 45, was a customer services
supervisor with Singapore Airlines when the scam was hatched in
February 1996. It ended in 2002.

Prosecutor Chris Beale told the court that the points were worth
almost $790,000 . with more than $200,000 worth redeemed. Nine
airlines were affected.

Mr Beale said Perrott used the points for accommodation on a trip to
the US with his wife and children, as well as on domestic flights.  
Family and friends also paid him for air tickets.

Perrott's deceit was revealed when an Air New Zealand investigation
discovered he was a Gold Elite member and that many points had been
gained from planes landing in Melbourne.

Mr Beale said Perrott asked friends at Qantas for the password to the
computer system, telling them it was so he could gain access to cheap
or free seats for staff at other airlines. Once he had the password,
he was able to access other airlines.

Yesterday Perrott, from the Melbourne suburb of Middle Park, pleaded
guilty to nine counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception.

His lawyer, Greg Lyon, said that his client was desperately trying to
maintain a lifestyle that he and his family had previously enjoyed.

Mr Lyon said Perrott was remorseful and had stopped the scam by his
own volition.

His last offence was in October 2002, five months before he was
interviewed by police.

The plea hearing, before Judge Roy Punshon, continues.

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