Uber reportedly uses a 'secret tool' to hide data from police

Alicia Cross
January 13, 2018

Now, as Bloomberg reports, Khosrowshahi must dodge the fallout from the news that Uber regularly employed a secret program to shut down its computer systems and evade authorities in the event of a police raid. Ripley allowed engineers based at the ride-hailing company's San Francisco headquarters to quickly deny remote access to driver and customer data.

"Employees aware of its existence eventually took to calling it Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's flamethrower-wielding hero in the Alien movies".

The use of this tool raises questions for Uber simply because there is now a growing list of eyebrow-raising technological tactics the company has employed during its meteoric rise from Bay Area phenomenon to global powerhouse over the past nine years.

In May 2015, ten investigators for the Quebec tax authority burst into Uber's office in Montreal, believing that Uber had violated tax laws and arrived with a warrant to collect evidence.

Separately, Uber is under investigation for its "greyball" software, which was reportedly used to thwart government regulators. Kalanick was replaced in August by the former CEO of Expedia, Dara Khosrowshahi.

The program, known internally as Ripley, was put into action at least two dozen times in order to prevent regulators and law enforcement from gaining access to information from the company's computers-even when a proper warrant was provided. Uber granted access to the relevant files once issued with a second, more specific search warrant.

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In December 2016, an ex-Uber security employee, Ward Spangenberg, made a sworn statement saying he was part of an "incident response team" that helped remotely erase data when Revenu Québec raided the company's Montreal offices in 2015.

The ride-sharing company Uber confirms it had technology to shield company data when law enforcement raided offices outside the U.S. The company also said its policy is 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.

The ability to lock down devices wasn't limited to computers, according to the report.

Most companies don't expect police to raid their offices, but Uber isn't most companies.

Less than a week after Greyball was exposed, Uber said it stopped using the software.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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