This is ‘Ripley’, Uber’s secret panic button against police raids
By: Joseph Reis – X Tech News
Several workers who know first-hand how the system works have ensured that it was in use for several years with the aim of protecting employees and customers
Uber has become, in a matter of months, one of the most important companies on the planet. The service has penetrated deeply in half the world, while another means cries to the four winds against the American firm. The reason? The company has been immersed in several controversies since 2009 and the last one has to do with a secret software that it would have used since May 2015 to avoid showing its more confidential information.
The company has a hidden system called ‘ Ripley ‘, whose mission is simply to manage unexpected protocols. The clearest example, which the police began to suspect, occurred in May 2015: Canadian tax inspectors entered the Uber offices in Montreal in search of specific documentation, suspecting that the company might be violating some local laws. However, they found nothing.
The authorities began to suspect the possibility that Uber had some system capable of hiding information. Some years later, several former employees of the company have confessed to ‘Bloomberg’ that these suspicions are real : they have a mechanism capable of hiding sensitive data that they store in their systems whenever the authorities do not go to a registry with the necessary permits to access to all the documentation they are looking for.
According to three former workers, who know ‘Ripley’ perfectly, its use is very simple: each site has a ‘panic button’ that is only used under a plan called ‘unexpected visitor protocol’. Once clicked, the affiliate sends a message to the main office, located in San Francisco, which is remotely able to block the data of any device, as well as turn it off or even change passwords if they consider it necessary.
Authorities around the world believe that Uber has been able to use up to 20 times this ‘ software ‘, which the company does not deny although it does clarify its use: “Like any company with offices around the world, we have security procedures for protecting corporate and customer data. When it comes to government investigations, our policy is to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data, “he said in a statement.
“Destroy everything to be safe”
The company also assured that the system was used until the end of 2016 and that, at present, it has fallen into disuse. These three people who know ‘Ripley’ also wanted to justify its use in some cases, by saying to ‘Bloomberg’ that the US police did not always go to the registries with the necessary orders to access certain information and, even so, it was done with what they were looking for even when the law did not protect them. To avoid this, they decided to create this secret software.
It is a tool so little known that even many workers of some sites that have been inspected by the authorities were unaware of the existence of ‘Ripley’. As a curiosity, his name: the most seasoned, have seen that it has a relationship with ‘ Alien ‘, specifically with the character played by Sigourney Weaver. The reason? One of his phrases in the film: “Destroy the entire site from orbit, it’s the only way to be safe”.
Other sources close to the company have even claimed that Uber worked for some time on another security software called ‘uLocker’, which would go even further and that would be able to generate on the devices a fake desktop with navigation capabilities. Complete, something that Uber has denied outright. Recall that Uber was already discovered using ‘Greyball’, a secret ‘software’ in their vehicles to avoid police checks posted on the roads.