Delta airlines accused of email hacking

 

Delta of accused e-mail hacking

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Economist.com | WASHINGTON DC

KATE HANNI, the founder of a group that’s agitating for an "Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights", filed suit in Houston last week alleging that Delta Air Lines had hacked her e-mail account, the Houston Chronicle reports. It’s an explosive charge, but Ms Hanni shouldn’t immediately be dismissed as a nut: she’s a crucial leader in the fight for a bill that has some provisions—like a three-hour limit on tarmac delays—that the airlines really don’t want to see passed. So Delta might actually have a motive to hack Ms Hanni’s e-mail—it’s always an advantage to know what your opponents are thinking. But where’s the evidence?

Here’s what we know so far. According to court filings, America Online, Ms Hanni’s internet service provider, confirmed that hacking had occured. The bulk of Ms Hanni’s evidence comes from the sworn affidavit of Frederick Foreman. Dr Foreman, a consultant, had been hired by the Federal Aviation Administration to analyse surface delays (the kind that lead to passengers sitting on the tarmac for hours on end). Dr Foreman had been corresponding with Ms Hanni about his research. According to the court filing, this correspondence happened with the permission of Metron Aviation, Dr Foreman’s employer. This is where it gets interesting. What follows is an excerpt from Dr Foreman’s affidavit (I redacted e-mail addresses):

On Friday, September 25, 2009 at approximately 10:00 AM, I was escorted by two (2) Metron Aviation, Inc. employees into the office of Mr. James Gaughan, Senior Vlce-Presldent and General Manager. Mr. Gayshan asked me to go over the chronology of my interaction with the media. I told him my interaction with the media as I remembered it. He told me that what I told him was not consistent with information that he had. I responded by asking him what are you talking about? He immediately said that I had contact with Ms. Kate Hanni on Thursday, September 24, 2009. I said yes I did but Kate Hanni is not the media so that my statements about the chronology of events are correct. Mr. Gaughan proceeded to show me on his computer monitor what appeared to be hacked and stolen email communlcatlons within the last six (6) months or more between Kate Hanni and me, me and Gary Stoller of USA Today, me and Susan Stellin, a freelance reporter, and Kate Hanni and a number of people concerning the Passenger Bill of Rights, excessive surface delays, and other prlvate communications. It was clear that they had email transactions from both of my private email accounts; Hotmall (****@msn.com) and Yahoo (****@mmi-gov.com). It was also clear that these emalls were from Kate Hanni’s prlvate and personal email account (****@aol,com as well as from Gary Stoller’s (****@usatoday.com) private USA Today account and Susan Stellin’s (****@earthllnk.net) private and personal email account. There were no email communications from Metron Aviation’s email system only communications from private accounts.

Ms Hanni is asking for up to $11m, including $10m in exemplary damages. A Delta spokeswoman told the Chronicle she couldn’t say much because of pending litigation but that "obviously the idea that Delta would hack into someone’s e-mail is clearly without merit." Dr Foreman’s affidavit is damning. He could be lying, of course. But the public relations of this are a nightmare for Delta. It would definitely be a smart move for Delta’s lawyers to file their response to this sooner rather than later, and for Delta’s PR team to provide the press with something more substantial than an expression of disbelief.

Delta of accused e-mail hacking | Gulliver | Economist.com

 

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