Uber used secret tool to thwart law enforcement in foreign countries

Uber Uses 'Ripley&apos in Times of Panic

Uber Uses 'Ripley&apos in Times of Panic

As soon as they burst into the Montreal office, Uber staff paged the headquarters in San Francisco who remotely logged everyone in that office off their devices. Employees were then able to remotely tip off a special team at Uber's headquarters in San Francisco where they used "Ripley" to remotely log off every computer in the Montreal office, thus blocking the authorities from obtaining any records. Employees aware of its existence eventually took to calling it Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's flamethrower-wielding hero in the Alien movies.

From spring 2015 until late 2016, Uber routinely used Ripley to thwart police raids in foreign countries, say three people with knowledge of the system. The Quebec tax authority arrived at the ride-hailing company's local office unannounced with a warrant. The investigators were said to have left empty handed.

Later versions of the system gave Uber the ability to offer selective access to authorities, presumably to stop anyone trying to snoop around places not covered by warrants and court orders.

Called Ripley, the system allowed a remote team to lock, shut off, and change passwords on devices the company feared would be targeted by investigators in foreign countries.

Some Uber employees felt the system hindered legitimate investigations, while others believed its use was justified when police didn't come with warrants or specific-enough data requests, according to Bloomberg, which first on Ripley Thursday.

In a statement to The Verge, Uber said the following: "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data".

'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data. The secret tool, called "Ripley", has been used over two dozen times to block the legal efforts of local offers from gathering information, sources told Bloomberg.

The three people with knowledge of the programme say they believe Ripley's use was justified in some cases because police outside the USA didn't always come with warrants or relied on broad orders to conduct fishing expeditions. This all sounds fully above board and has nothing to do with obstructing justice. But as he works to rebrand Uber in the eyes of the public and set the company back on track, he continues to uncover new messes that Kalanick left behind, including regulatory threats to Uber's business overseas, and a major data breach made worse by former employees' efforts to hide it. It's also facing at least four other inquiries by the United States government.

Uber is said to have even considered a system called uLocker, which would present law enforcement officials with a dummy login screen. According to the latest report from Bloomberg, Uber used a second secret program it used to protect itself from government raids and investigations.

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