Uber has a special system to allow staff at its San Francisco HQ to remotely lock down computers at its offices around the world if they were raided by authorities, it has been claimed. Think of it as a panic button and Uber is calling it "Ripley". According to Bloomberg, the company has used the program to remotely "lockdown" computers in foreign offices to prevent police from retrieving records and information.
In response to the article, Uber released a statement to Bloomberg that reads, "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data".
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. In addition to Montreal, Ripley has been executed at offices in Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Paris.
'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.
Bloomberg said that Ripley stands out partly because it was used regularly-at least two dozen times because some employees involved say they felt the program slowed investigations that were legally sound in the local offices' jurisdictions.
Ensign said Ripley, which was initiated before the Uber hired a team of security experts, was retired because it did not work properly.
It's no secret that corporations often employ questionable and often downright illegal tactics to hide sensitive, potentially incriminating evidence from investigators.
Ripley - which was said to be named after Sigourney Weaver's character in the 1979 sci-fi movie "Alien" - could remotely disable, lock or change the password on employees' computers and smartphones. The authorities believed Uber had violated tax laws and obtained a warrant to collect evidence. But in the case with Ripley, the company said it was in the right.
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. The software let the company target certain individuals, like police, and show them a mock-up version of the app with no cars available. Further, the judge said that Uber's actions demonstrated "all the characteristics of an attempt to obstruct justice". It's also facing at least four other inquiries by the U.S. government.
It also mentions another system, called uLocker, which it says was contemplated for times when Uber wanted to be "less transparent". It's basically the same software someone would use if they lost their smartphone. According to the latest report from Bloomberg, Uber used a second secret program it used to protect itself from government raids and investigations.