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Wednesday, 22 November 2017 09:32

Heads roll after leak of 57m Uber user details reported Featured

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Ride-sharing company Uber has sacked its chief security officer Joe Sullivan and one of his deputies after it was found that both had played a role in hiding a data breach that exposed the personal data of 57 million users from around the globe.

The October 2016 hack included names, email addresses and phone numbers, Bloomberg reported citing a company spokesperson.

Apart from this, personal information about seven million Uber drivers was accessed as well. The stolen data included 600,000 US drivers' licence numbers, but no social security numbers, trip locations or other data.

The company said it had paid the attackers who stole the data US$100,00 to keep the matter quiet, rather than report the breach to US authorities as was its obligation.

Uber chief executive Data Khosrowshahi, who took on the role in September this year, told Bloomberg: "None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it. We are changing the way we do business."

uber

The breach took place under the former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, who found out about it in November 2016. At the time Uber had settled a suit about data security disclosures and was negotiating with the US Federal Trade Commission about how it handled consumer data.

The hack was discovered by an external team that was tasked with finding out the activities of Sullivan's security team which is said to have taken many decisions that have affected the company.

The attackers gained access to a private GitHub repository used by Uber software engineers and used login credentials which were available on the repository to access data on an Amazon Web Services account that was used to handle computing tasks.

They found driver and rider information in the AWS bucket and contacted the company asking for a ransom.

Corey Williams, senior director of products and marketing at identity and access management company Centrify, said the hack was preventable.

“Unfortunately, companies continue to rely on a system of trust: Trust that a simple username and password is enough to know who is accessing their network and systems; trust that perimeter security has eliminated all of the bad actors within the network; and trust that once on the network or system that the user should have access to any data or commands," he said.

The longstanding lesson was that a password was simply not enough for protection. “The time has come to no longer trust in too-easily stolen passwords for ensuring that users are who they say they are,” Williams said.

“Instead, now is the time to move to a zero-trust approach that only grants access to services based on what we know about the user and their device - a zero-trust stance that ensures all access to services must be authenticated, authorised and encrypted. Only then will these utterly preventable hacks start to subside.”

There are at least five criminal probes into Uber, looking into alleged bribery, illicit software, pricing schemes, and theft of a competitor's IP. A number of civil suits are also ongoing and the service faces bans in London and other cities due to what has been termed reckless behaviour.

Uber suffered a data breach in 2014 as well and was discussing a settlement with the FTC while it haggled with the hackers to keep the 2016 breach quiet.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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