According to Bloomberg, the company has used the program to remotely “lockdown” computers in foreign offices to prevent police from retrieving records and information. A court order subsequently forced Uber to shut down its service for operating without proper licenses.
In one example provided by Bloomberg, Uber’s offices in Montreal used the Riley program to avoid handing over documents to regulators from the Quebec tax authority.
The software tool, known as Ripley, allowed staff at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco to remotely log off computers at other offices, Bloomberg reported. According to Bloomberg, the San Francisco-based company has a secret tool to keep cops from accessing data on their computers.
Called Ripley, the system allowed a remote team to lock, shut off, and change passwords on devices the company feared would be targeted by investigators in foreign countries. Employees aware of its existence eventually took to calling it Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver’s flamethrower-wielding hero in the Alien movies.
Uber is said to have even considered a system called uLocker, which would present law enforcement officials with a dummy login screen. 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. This lead to the investigators leaving empty handed. The authorities believed Uber had violated tax laws and obtained a warrant to collect evidence.
In a statement to The Verge, Uber said the following: “Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data”. The nickname was inspired by a Ripley line in Aliens, after the acid-blooded extraterrestrials easily best a squad of ground troops.
‘When it comes to government investigations, it’s our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.
Uber is now under investigation by the US Department of Justice for its use of Greyball.
Uber continues to dig itself into a deeper hole as new things are discovered about the odd tactics and behaviors the company conducts. However, what is out of the ordinary in this case it how frequently Ripley has been employed. In addition to Montreal, Ripley has been executed at offices in Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Paris.