Uber Used Secret "Ripley" Program to Evade Law Enforcement

The system was able to change passwords remotely log out workers from Uber's servers and even switch off machine so data could not be collected

Uber first developed the system, initially called the "unexpected visitor protocol", after a police raid in its Brussels office, where Belgian law enforcement officers accessed the company's financial documents, payments system and worker data.

The team in charge of the system were able to remotely lock computer systems, including smartphones, shut down devices, and change passwords.

The report details an example back in 2015, when authorities raided Uber's Montreal office under the belief that the company had violated tax laws. The company used it at least two dozen times in situations with authorities in foreign countries, according to Bloomberg.

Should law enforcement show up to raid any of its offices overseas, managers had been instructed to page a number to warn staff at Uber's San Francisco headquarters, according to a report Thursday by Bloomberg News.

Ripley isn't the only program Uber used to thwart local authorities.

(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.

When investigators came knocking on Uber's overseas offices with warrants, managers were trained to call a certain phone number, the report says.

Sigourney Weaver as Warrant Officer Ripley in the hit film Alien 3- the inspiration for Uber's latest software tool
Sigourney Weaver as Warrant Officer Ripley in the hit film Alien 3- the inspiration for Uber's latest software tool

The company says it did have a security system in pace to protect data, but insists it cooperates with "all valid searches". The name itself was inspired by the words of Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley in Aliens, specifically the line "nuke the entire site from orbit". But the company maintains with regards to Ripley, it was in the right.

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

Separately, Uber is under investigation for its "greyball" software, which was reportedly used to thwart government regulators.

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

Uber said that it doesn't destroy evidence and it has let government officials walk out the door with company laptops before - it all depends if the data the authorities want is covered by legal privilege, such as correspondence between Uber and a lawyer.

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

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