Uber reportedly developed a program that could remotely shut down all computers in an office in order to thwart police raids in order to deal with its perpetual run-ins with regulators and law enforcement.
According to a new report from Bloomberg, the program, called “Ripley,” allowed a remote team to lock, shut off, and change passwords on devices the company feared would be targeted by investigators in foreign countries.
The ride sharing company is said to have routinely used the system more than 20 times between spring 2015 until late 2016, in places as far afield as Canada, Brussels and Hong Kong. The report begins using Montreal as an example:
In May 2015 about 10 investigators for the Quebec tax authority burst into Uber Technologies Inc.’s office in Montreal. The authorities believed Uber had violated tax laws and had a warrant to collect evidence. Managers on-site knew what to do, say people with knowledge of the event.
Like managers at Uber’s hundreds of offices abroad, they’d been trained to page a number that alerted specially trained staff at company headquarters in San Francisco. When the call came in, staffers quickly remotely logged off every computer in the Montreal office, making it practically impossible for the authorities to retrieve the company records they’d obtained a warrant to collect. The investigators left without any evidence.
According to the report, employees were unable to log back into their machines even with the ostensibly proper credentials as the requisite passwords had been changed remotely.
Uber told Bloomberg that, similar to “every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data. When it comes to government investigations, it’s our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.”
Whether authorities decide to investigate the company for these happening is yet to be seen, but it comes at an inconvenient time for Uber as it is currently facing as many as five criminal probes over various schemes from the company’s earlier years under former-CEO Travis Kalanick.