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Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:05 am

Air Canada sued WestJet Airlines and two of its employees on Tuesday, alleging the discount carrier unauthorizedly used information on a private Air Canada website for business purposes.

The private website is used by Air Canada employees to book personal non-revenue travel and check passenger loads.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20040406.waircan0406/BNStory/Business/

Just a caution to the various AC employees (and their dependants) who love to post the same information on this forum that big brother is watching you....

[Edited 2004-04-07 01:06:55]
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada
 
BOEING747-700
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:25 am

Oh my my how the tables have turned. I thought WJ doesn't kick someone who is already down.
 
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yyz717
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:39 am

Let's not blame Westjet just yet. These allegations might only reflect on the former AC employee who joined WJ and possibly the one WJ VP. Clearly, such activity if true is illegal and would not be condoned by WJ.

On a related note, I'm actually surprised WJ would hire any former AC professional staff, even a lowly financial analyst.



I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
planemaker
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:52 am

Here's AC's proof: Big grin

WestJet's March RPM, Load Factor Up
April 6, 2004

WestJet Airlines recorded more revenue passenger miles in March and its planes flew with a smaller percentage of empty seats year-over-year, Canada's second-largest carrier said on Tuesday.

Calgary, Alberta-based WestJet, a no-frills airline that has been one of the few success stories during a dismal period for the industry, said its March revenue passenger miles rose 31.5 percent to 467 million from 355 million miles for the same month a year earlier.

Load factor rose to 67.7 percent in March, up from 66.8 percent in March 2003.

WestJet's growth in traffic comes as rival carrier Air Canada faces ongoing turmoil. One of the main parties interested in taking a 31 percent stake in Air Canada said last week it was walking away from the deal.

(Reuters)
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
 
captaingomes
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Acc

Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:53 am

Clearly, such activity if true is illegal and would not be condoned by WJ.

Given the recent lawsuits with Air Canada versus Westjet and the GTAA, Westjet clearly doesn't mind taking legal risks in order to fight off Air Canada. I sincerely doubt, if the allegations are true, that the one individual had an automated software to monitor route profitability using their Air Canada password without the knowlege of Westjet.
"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
 
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yyz717
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:58 am

I sincerely doubt, if the allegations are true, that the one individual had an automated software to monitor route profitability using their Air Canada password without the knowlege of Westjet.

You are tainting an entire airline with your allegation Nuno. I don't believe any business would condone such activity en masse. If true, these allegations are likely the result of rogue activity by a few WJ employees, and certainly not WJ corporate acquiessence.

Anyway, why would a former AC employee still retain AC access to systems? He should have been cut off the day he left AC. Looks like there are some security issues within AC over this. Surprise. Surprise.



I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
yvrtoyyz
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:00 am

Welcome to the corporate business world where competition is the scenario and profits are the goal. While I do not support the actions taken by this individual, I would be willing to suggest that it most likely is a disgruntled, former AC employee being utilized to further Westjet's profits. Despite my favour of Westjet, I am deeply disappointed by these allegations.

-YVRtoYYZ
 
searpqx
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:07 am

While AC certainly should have terminated any system access the moment the employee left the company, that won't serve as a defense if AC can show that Westjet used proprietary data obtained from AC to make route capacity, scheduling and/or pricing decisions. I'm guessing that Canadian law is similar to US, in that the company can be held liable if it can be shown that they could have reasonably been aware the access was going on and/or that the data gained was being used to make decisions. About the only way it could be blamed solely on the employee or a small group of employees is if they were allowed to operate in a vacuum, w/o any management oversight.

Duane
"The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity"
 
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yyz717
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:13 am

While I do not support the actions taken by this individual, I would be willing to suggest that it most likely is a disgruntled, former AC employee being utilized to further Westjet's profits. Despite my favour of Westjet, I am deeply disappointed by these allegations.

Yes, I see your point. Well summarized. I can definitely see the disgruntled former AC employee potentiality.

It would be disappointing if there was widespread WJ acceptance of this alleged activity. Given that a WJ VP was involved, chances are other WJ are involved if true.

If these allegations are true, WJ should pay the sued amount and of course fire all staff involved.


I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
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yyz717
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:14 am

If there is any lesson in this, it is NEVER hire staff from a competitor.
I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
wgw2707
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:16 am

I hope Air Canada wins large punitive damages from this.

-WGW2707



[Edited 2004-04-07 02:18:56]
 
slawko
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:19 am

It depends Neil. If he retired, or took a package he still has access to the travel website, as they retain a limited number of passes, same goes for employees on lay off, or leave. Anyway I find it hard to imagine that something like this could have been pulled off by just two employees, and given the close relationship between Mark Hill and Clive, I would be surprised if he had no knowledge of what was going on. I would agree with your other post, "If these allegations are true, WJ should pay the sued amount and of course fire all staff involved." even if that includes a founding VP.
"Clive Beddoe says he favours competition, but his actions do not support that idea." Robert Milton - CEO Air Canada
 
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yyz717
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:26 am

given the close relationship between Mark Hill and Clive, I would be surprised if he had no knowledge of what was going on.

That thought crossed my mind also Slawko. Let's see how it plays out. The financial damages are potentially small but a few careers could be over.

If the allegations are true, this could bring the apparently euphoric Westjet corporate environment down to a more sober level, which will help WJ in the long run as it grows and matures.



I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
CanadaEH
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:54 am

I'm really curious to see how this all unfolds. Who was involved and who knew about it?

I also have to question the timing of this. It's no secret how public the whole Tnew/T2/YYZ debacle has been with Westjet, Air Canada, and the GTAA, I wonder if this is good timing as well? I'm not about to start pointing fingers because at this point in time nobody knows ANYTHING aside from what is mentioned in the news article.

Curiously awaiting more details..........
EH.
 
yvrtoyyz
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 10:03 am

Another conspiracy theory suggestion here. Given the debacle between WJ, AC and the GTAA, could anyone within the GTAA have accessed such information and passed it along to someone-with-rank in WJ as a method of 'compensation' for being unable to deliver on their promise of gates and slots in T1 New?

-YVRtoYYZ
 
slawko
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 10:11 am

HAHAHAHA Maybe it was a CJ employee who quit jetsgo after being laid off from Air Canada because they were former Canadian, and wanted to see Canadian Regional come back to life so they sent this info to Westjet, so that they could put AC out of business, and Jazz could be sold and re-branded as Canadian Regional and they could quit canjet and go back to CRA...
 Smile
"Clive Beddoe says he favours competition, but his actions do not support that idea." Robert Milton - CEO Air Canada
 
CPDC10-30
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 10:13 am

Quite interesting that this type of thing only comes up with almost a quarter of a million accesses. My feeling is that AC knew this was going on long ago but only now has conclusive proof that WS is using this information to competitive advantage. With the stats given, that means that information was accessed over 750 times per day.

The egg right now is on AC's face though. What kind of company is so stupid to allow someone who no longer has ties to the company access to confidential information? They were asking for this if you believe me. They should have arranged some other type of buyout package for the employees invloved.
 
Cessnapimp
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Acc

Wed Apr 07, 2004 11:42 am

I dunno...

... be kinda cool if they got 14 billion out of it...
 
behramjee
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 12:32 pm

this though a serious charge is very childish because can AC actually expect WJ to provide figures for performace of those flights and how can they prove that it was due to that website that WJ changed its schedules etc etc. When this was being accessed around the 50,000th time, then why couldnt AC take action then...why wait till the 243,000th time.

 
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 12:38 pm

When this was being accessed around the 50,000th time, then why couldnt AC take action then...why wait till the 243,000th time

You would think that with over just a few hundred accesses they would shut down the account. It almost seems like they wanted to catch WestJet with their pants down and reap some free publicity.
 
Jean Leloup
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 12:49 pm

I think it's their right to take action when they feel it's appropriate, even if it means waiting until they have conclusive evidence. I find it odd that some users seem to be trying to get Westjet off the hook, here... I love 'em but these acts seem pretty indefensible, and Air Canada is well within their right to take action, in my opinion.
Next flight.... who knows.
 
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 12:58 pm

Air Canada is well within their right to take action, in my opinion.

Yes, but there is proof that AC didn't want to stop the flow of information. They are more interested in the publicity and the potential award from the lawsuit. If they were concerned about confidential information spreading to WS, they would have disabled the account long before. That makes the whole case lose some of its credibility.
 
travelmark
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Wed Apr 07, 2004 11:18 pm

I read to many conspiracy books......here's a thought....AC knew for a long while that this was going on.....they should have changed all the information regarding payloads to screw around with WJ!
 
Whiteguy
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 3:29 am

It sure is a different story when WS gets caught. If it was AC doing this the fit would hit the shan, everybody would be calling it criminal and running to the competition bureau. Yyz717 would be in the background yelling liquidate, but no everybody is going to wait because it was only in the paper, which of course can only be believed if its talking about AC.

 
northstardc4m
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 3:52 am

Well, Air Canada's IT department really needs to be reigned in and reorganised from the sounds of it. Why on earth are they allowing off-site unmonitored access to this system without even so much as requiring regular password changes!? I mean come on, thats security 101 guys! They should be changing the password every 30-45 days and either doing it user by user (aka each user has their own password, and if it isnt changed every cycle the account gets cut) or distributing the password via a secured internal system.

Not only that, some sources have stated that connections to this server are unencrypted and passwords transmitted in plain text, it's like no one is watching the store over there.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
 
Skywatcher
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:13 am

I read an article which stated that the idiot who is accused of the misadventure had a 5 year severance package that included the right to free AC tickets.This permitted him access to the booking site with the load figures.

I'm sure he also signed a confidentiality agreement concerning abuse of the information.

It would seem that he's just a good old fashioned cheater who abused a trust and was abetted by others who think it's OK to cheat as well.

I would terminate such severance goodies once an employee is re-hired but I'm sure the AC unions would go on strike if that were to come to pass. I quess AC is stuck with maintaining the giveaways.

If 30,000+ employees fool around in the freebie database I doubt that the usage numbers of this idiots ID would have stuck out too much.

It's a question of trust abuse more than anything.

The actions of Westjet in this case would appear to be indefensible and morally corrupt.
 
Dash8King
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:11 am

Yep Westjet should pay, they screwed up. Why would they let that go on when they can physically count the pax?
 
JAL777
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:40 am

If there is any lesson in this, it is NEVER hire staff from a competitor.

Correction. If there is any lesson in this, it is to treat your employees so they would NEVER go to work for your competitor.
 
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EA CO AS
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:52 am

The airline alleges Lafond's identification number was used 243,630 times between May 15, 2003, and March 19, 2004, to access the website.

That's certainly indicative of some sort of inappropriate access to the website, and this large number would seem to lend credibility to the allegations.

I don't care for AC all that much, but they definitely should win this case.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan

Comments made here are my own and are not intended to represent the official position of Alaska Air Group
 
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yyz717
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:15 am

The airline alleges Lafond's identification number was used 243,630 times between May 15, 2003, and March 19, 2004, to access the website.

That's about 200 business days, so over 1000 hits per business day. If these hit volumes are true, it must have been MANY Westjet staff who were involved.

I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
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EA CO AS
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:54 am

That's about 200 business days, so over 1000 hits per business day. If these hit volumes are true, it must have been MANY Westjet staff who were involved.

Probably even more staff than you think! Keep in mind, that's an average of 1000 hits per business day - but each hit represents a log-in, not a flight researched.

It's conceivable that dozens of flights in many markets were being researched with each hit made!
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan

Comments made here are my own and are not intended to represent the official position of Alaska Air Group
 
CanadianPilot
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Thu Apr 08, 2004 12:59 pm

The individual who did this was given a 'package' from Air Canada when he left. A few company travel passes every year. To book flights on a company pass, you have to use the online booking system. So AC gave him a username and password to the Personal Travel Booking Website.

243,630 hits over a 10 month period. Approx 300 days in this time span, this equates to around 800 hits per day.
Guess how many flights Air Canada has per day? Thats right!
The computer program was checking AC loads, for each flight, everyday!

Makes it easy to bail from routes that aren't being filled by the competitor (which isn't allowed to abandon cities!), and pick up routes that AC is filling their planes on.

Anyone that thinks the 'powers that be' at WJ were unaware of this practice, needs to give their head a shake. (Probably the same people that believe Paul Martin 'had no clue' what was going on with all the country's money)

As was mentioned above, if AC had been caught doing this?! Holy Crap. The public would flip, and it would probably cause the end of AC. Clive has done a fantastic job of brainwashing people!

-CP

 
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yyz717
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RE: Westjet Sued Over Unauthorized AC Computer Access

Sat Apr 10, 2004 4:56 am

The Westjet analyst and VP have now been placed on paid leave pending an internal investigation, as reported in todays paper.

The attached editorial in the Natl Post suggests that AC knew about the improper access some time ago and was seeking to entrap Westjet. If this is true, AC is as morally bankrupt as the Westjet perpetrators of this incident, if all allegations are true.

http://www.canada.com/search/story.html?id=47d02264-dc90-443c-9788-2bb2806a6a97

Was WestJet lured into the Air Canada honey pot?

Paul Kedrosky
Financial Post

Thursday, April 08, 2004

There is a new twist in the Air Canada tale. While the bankrupt airline is still looking for a replacement guide out of bankruptcy, Air Canada is also heating up its battle with discount airline WestJet -- and the circumstances cry conspiracy.

Air Canada alleges that the personal identification number of a former employee, now working at WestJet, has been used for the past year to access a confidential Air Canada Web site. According to the complaint, the ID was used to access Air Canada's systems 243,630 times between May 15, 2003, and March 19, 2004. Air Canada argues that information allowed WestJet to target Air Canada's most profitable routes and times.

It is just the latest development in a nasty rivalry. WestJet, a Calgary-based discount airline, has been knocking the stuffing out of Air Canada, via a significant cost advantage. Air Canada isn't price competitive, so when it tries to fight back it just loses more money than usual -- ergo, in part, the company's entry into bankruptcy.

But now Air Canada is saying that WestJet wasn't fighting fair. "The ongoing, unlawful exploitation of [Air Canada's] confidential information, has caused [Air Canada] substantial loss, including loss of revenue, profits, and goodwill," says the suit, and it seeks $5-million in damages, plus some of the lost profits.

The Web site itself was created to allow Air Canada employees to book flights on Air Canada. Having logged in to the site, Jeffrey Lafond, the WestJet (and former Air Canada) employee at the centre of Air Canada's allegation, would have been able to obtain information about the number of passengers booked on all flights at Air Canada for almost the next full year.

But here is where things get strange. Air Canada apparently allowed Lafond access to the site as part of his separation package from Air Canada. He received two free Air Canada flights a year, and to book them he would use the confidential Air Canada site.

That is a bizarre decision on Air Canada's part. Why allow former employees access to a system chock-full of confidential information? It seems, at the very least, bad data stewardship. There are too many opportunities for that information to go awry, whether into the stock market or into competitors' hands; there are better ways to book flights.

But having given ex-employee Lafond access to confidential information, Air Canada proceeded to (apparently) turn a blind eye while Lafond's ID was used to profligately access the system. Recall, Lafond's ID logged in a staggering 243,630 times over the past year: That is not just an airline buff sniffing around for old times' sake during coffee breaks.

A quarter million times per year is 685 times per day, or 28 times per hour -- or about once every two minutes. And it is even more frequent if the ID wasn't being used outside working hours. In effect, if Air Canada's complaint is correct, an ex-employee was standing on Air Canada's electronic doorstep buzzing the doorbell incessantly for a year -- and no one at Air Canada noticed.

While it is possible that Air Canada really didn't notice the interloper, I am doubtful. Even the most poorly designed systems log accesses, and it is highly unlikely that Air Canada's employee flight reservation system is any different. Put another way, given how unusual it is to grant ex-employees access to confidential systems, you would be horribly remiss if you didn't track access.

So if someone at Air Canada knew what was going on, as seems likely, why didn't they do anything about it? After all, if Air Canada was losing money because of competitive information sailing out the door, as it alleges, why didn't it clamp down?

Yes, it could be bureaucratic inefficiency, and that shouldn't be dismissed idly. Air Canada is still a government-style turgid-ocracy at heart, and it is possible that the systems at the airline are so lax that it took a year to alert anyone in management.

But another possibility exists. Is it so implausible that in its bitter battle with WestJet, Air Canada may have discovered a particularly handy club with which to beat its competitor? Perhaps Air Canada discovered that the ID of an ex-employee, now working at WestJet, was being used to peruse confidential data. Is it so unlikely that Air Canada would turn the trapdoor into an electronic honey pot, something with which to beat WestJet in court, as opposed to beating it in the markets?

Sure, even if Air Canada's allegation is true and my honey pot hypothesis is correct, it wouldn't excuse WestJet's actions. But the fact that a bizarre conspiracy theory seems so much more plausible -- and entertaining -- than mere bureaucratic efficiency shows just how desperate Air Canada's fight for survival has become.


I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.

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