Uber built secret program to evade law enforcement

Ivan Schwartz
January 12, 2018

According to Bloomberg, managers were trained to page a number that alerted specially trained staff at company headquarters in San Francisco Ripley when the police arrived. The call would result in a team in San Francisco remotely shutting down computers in the office under investigation making it hard if not impossible for law enforcement to retrieve the desired records. It was officially called "the unexpected visitor protocol", but employees who knew about it nicknamed it Ripley after the main character in the Alien movie franchise. According to Bloomberg, the company has used the program to remotely "lockdown" computers in foreign offices to prevent police from retrieving records and information. The tool allows Uber to show enforcement officers worldwide a fake version of its application, Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for "violation of terms of service", which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly.

In May 2015 about 10 investigators for the Quebec tax authority burst into Uber Technologies Inc's office in Montreal. That way the police are unable to access the systems, and cannot leave with any evidence.

Ripley: This allowed the Uber HQ team to remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops as well as shut down the devices'.

Uber subsequently complied with authorities when the judge issued a second warrant.

In order to address these types of situations, the ride-hailing company uses software to protect its data, which is commonplace among companies that operate internationally.

Uber developed and regularly made use of a secret program it built that locked down company devices to thwart police raids, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday.

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(Khosrowshahi reportedly fired Sullivan after he learned that the security chief had spearheaded the effort to pay off hackers responsible for the massive 2016 data breach.) "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data", Uber said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Uber doesn't have a very good relationship with regulators, and by that I mean it seems to do everything it can to avoid letting them do any investigation into the company.

The Justice Department also is investigating whether Uber illegally used software to track drivers of its rival Lyft.

'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.

Ensign said Ripley, which was initiated before the Uber hired a team of security experts, was retired because it did not work properly. She said Uber's guidance to employees bars use of the tool where it isn't legal.

Other reports by GizPress

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