Uber's Ripley Program and Protocol

Bloomberg: Uber used remote tool to shut off devices during police raids

Between spring 2015 and late 2016, Bloomberg says Uber repeatedly used Ripley to avoid police raids in foreign cities such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong and Paris.

In order to deal with its perpetual run-ins with regulators and law enforcement, ride-sharing app Uber developed a program that could remotely shut down all computers in an office in order to thwart police raids, Bloomberg reported. But the company maintains with regards to Ripley, it was in the right.

Like managers at Uber's hundreds of offices overseas, they'd been trained to page a number that alerted specially trained staff at company headquarters in San Francisco.

Uber said the system - named Ripley, after the flame throwing hero in the Alien movies - was there to protect customer data.

The use of this tool raises questions for Uber because the company has in the past used a phony version of its app to thwart authorities attempting to collect evidence of local law-breaking.

Separately, Uber is under investigation for its "greyball" software, which was reportedly used to thwart government regulators. Dara Khosrowshahi has, at times, seemed less like management than mopping exercise. "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.

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Uber's new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi addressing his new team at Uber's San Francisco headquarters in late August.

Ryan Kalember from cybersecurity firm Proofpoint added that although it is standard practice to be able to remotely lock all systems or wipe data from devices, it's less typical to develop a specific tool and to give it such an evocative name.

Other companies have shut off computers during police raids and later granted access after reviewing warrants, according to Bloomberg.

Uber is said to have even considered a system called uLocker, which would present law enforcement officials with a dummy login screen.

Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data.

Less than a week after Greyball was exposed, Uber said it stopped using the software. "When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data".

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