Uber hid database hack from FTC while FTC probed Uber for an earlier database hack

Cab-hailing upstart shows it takes your privacy seriously

Uber hid a database hack from America's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) while the very same watchdog was investigating Uber for a separate database hack, it was revealed on Thursday.

The taxi app maker reached a settlement with the FTC in August 2017 after the biz allegedly "deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices" when, in 2014, it accidentally allowed hackers to rummage through drivers' personal information held in its Amazon-hosted cloud storage.

But it wasn't only punters that were being deceived: while the regulator was probing that 2014 computer security cockup, the company hid another, more recent, November 2016 database intrusion from the federal investigators.

As a result of that 2016 infiltration – which the upstart publicly acknowledged one year later in November 2017 – no less than 25 million names and email addresses, 22 million mobile phone numbers, and 600,000 drivers licenses, were accessed by miscreants.

Even more strikingly, that private information was exposed in the exact same way as the earlier 2014 screwup that the FTC was digging into: data stored on Amazon Web Services S3 cloud servers was accessed using a key that an Uber engineer had somehow made public on GitHub.

Uber revealed that in 2016 it has paid a "researcher" $100,000 to destroy the information and fed the payment through its bug bounty program. It was later revealed that the person in question was a 20-year-old Florida man who lives with his mom.

I see...

Needless to say, the FTC is not impressed, and has revised its 2017 agreement [PDF] with Uber to include civil penalties if it fails to notify the watchdog of future computer security blunders.

"After misleading consumers about its privacy and security practices, Uber compounded its misconduct by failing to inform the Commission that it suffered another data breach in 2016 while the Commission was investigating the company’s strikingly similar 2014 breach," said Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen.

"The strengthened provisions of the expanded settlement [PDF] are designed to ensure that Uber does not engage in similar misconduct in the future."

Uber self-driving car on a transport truck

Uber hack coverup: Your next US state lawsuit arrives in four minutes


Among the new provisions are a requirement for Uber to submit to the FTC all the reports from third-party audits of its privacy program and to retain bug bounty reports.

The revised FTC agreement has been put out for a month's worth of public comment after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final.

Anyone can theoretically let their views be know, although the FTC has gone to some lengths to limit the likelihood of an internet storm: it will only provide feedback instructions in a supplementary information section within a posting to the Federal Register and hasn't said when that posting will go up.

"When Dara Khosrowshahi joined the company [as CEO], he committed on behalf of every Uber employee that we would learn from our mistakes, change the way we did business and put integrity at the core of every decision we made. Since then we have moved quickly to do just that by taking responsibility for what happened," Uber's chief legal officer Tony West tole El Reg in a statement.

"I am pleased that just a few months after announcing this incident, we have reached a speedy resolution with the FTC that holds Uber accountable for the mistakes of the past by imposing new requirements that reasonably fit the facts." ®

Broader topics

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022