Uber used secret tool to thwart law enforcement in foreign countries

Marcus Newton
January 13, 2018

The Ripley system allowed staffers to remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops and desktops as well as shut down devices.

Reipley's implementation supposedly came after Belgian police raided Uber offices in March 2015, and were able to access the company's payments system, as well as obtain financial documents and information about drivers and employees. The three people with knowledge of the tool believe it was justified, however, since they claim authorities outside the United States didn't always come with warrants and often relied on rather broad orders.

The report detailed a May 2015 raid by investigators for the Quebec tax authority which had headquarters alerted and able to remotely log off all the computers in Uber's Montreal office. "For instance, if an employee loses their laptop, we have the ability to remotely log them out of Uber's systems to prevent someone else from accessing private user data through that laptop", Uber said in a statement to The Register.

'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.

The nickname for the tool, meanwhile, is said to be inspired by a quote from Ellen Ripley, the heroine played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film franchise. One such method it was at one point considering was the use of software that would present a fake version of a standard login screen.

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In addition to Ripley, Uber also reportedly explored other ways to avoid compliance with investigations.

Bloomberg's report makes no mention of use of the tool in USA offices.

An Uber tool called Greyball used data collected from the Uber app and other methods to find and circumvent officials, the NYT reported on Friday. Those rides would be canceled or never arrive.

Uber's use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber vehicle downtown as part of a sting operation against the company. A court order subsequently forced Uber to shut down its service for operating without proper licenses.

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

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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