Uber used yet another secret tool to evade law enforcement

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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 nickname for the tool, meanwhile, is said to be inspired by a quote from Ellen Ripley, the heroine played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film franchise.

The company allegedly used the system at least 24 times from spring 2015 until late 2016, but the report does not claim that Uber used the system for any United States offices. The tool allows Uber to show enforcement officers worldwide a fake version of its application, Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for "violation of terms of service", which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The Quebec tax authority arrived at the ride-hailing company's local office unannounced with a warrant.

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It's no secret that corporations often employ questionable and often downright illegal tactics to hide sensitive, potentially incriminating evidence from investigators.

Ripley: This allowed the Uber HQ team to remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops as well as shut down the devices'. Ensign could not immediately say if Uber has used that to protect data from law enforcement as well. Bloomberg reports this happened because Uber managers were informed ahead of time on how to cover up any revealing information.

Other companies have shut off computers during police raids and later granted access after reviewing warrants, according to Bloomberg.

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"Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data", said an Uber spokeswoman.

'Managers on-site knew what to do, say people with knowledge of the event.' Bloomberg says. Because of this, the investigators were unable to access the company records they were there for.

Now Uber is using Ripley to impede investigations into the company occurring in other countries. The company also said its policy is to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data. It cooperated with a second search warrant that explicitly covered the files and agreed to collect provincial taxes for each ride.

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Ripley was developed by Uber's security and legal teams; Joe Sullivan and Salle Yoo, who respectively ran the company's security and legal departments, have since left Uber. The only reason Uber stands out, in this case, is because they've repeatedly abused the system to intentionally set back investigators, which could amount to obstruction of justice in some instances. Apparently paging that number goes straight to specially trained staff who can remotely lock computer systems in Uber's offices across the world.

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