Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Uber used 'Greyball' tool to evade authorities around the world

Uber used 'Greyball' tool to evade authorities around the world

Greyball was software that officials in the firm admittedly used to evade regulators trying to catch Uber drivers who were violating local taxi regulations.

Uber has been using a secret tool known as "Ripley" to hide incriminating data from police, according to a report from Bloomberg.

One such instance occurred in Montreal in May 2015. Employees remotely tipped off a special team at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, who then used this tool to remotely log off every computer in the Montreal office, in effect blocking the authorities from obtaining the records they sought, according to Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg, the system was known as Ripley, after the flame throwing hero in the Alien movies, and was used over two dozen times. The company was under investigation for tax violations, and authorities had warrants to take any relevant files. After Belgian authorities accused Uber of operating without the necessary licenses, they were able to obtain access to driver and customer information, as well as the company's payments system and financial documents. The call would result in a team in San Francisco remotely shutting down computers in the office under investigation making it hard if not impossible for law enforcement to retrieve the desired records.

Uber downplayed the tool and said it was common practice to have such software to remotely change passwords or lock devices in the event they were lost or stolen. The Quebec investigators ended up leaving Uber's office empty-handed.

Previous year the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it is probing to see if Uber used software to illegally interfere with its competitors, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Bloomberg says later versions of the system gave the company the ability to selectively provide information to government agencies that searched its foreign offices. It's happened in Paris, Hong Kong, Montreal and other countries. However, what is out of the ordinary in this case it how frequently Ripley has been employed.

(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 it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.

Less than a week after Greyball was exposed, Uber said it stopped using the software. Because of this, the investigators were unable to access the company records they were there for.

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