Letter alleges Uber hacked into computer systems, stole data from rivals

A security group within Uber hacked into the computer systems to steal data from rivals, and attempted to cover its tracks by using burner cell phones, according to a letter made public yesterday by the judge overseeing the company's legal dispute with Google-spinoff company Waymo. (See: US prosecutors confirm Uber under criminal investigation)

The letter was written by a lawyer for a Richard Jacobs, a former manager of global intelligence at the firm. He wrote the letter in May to an internal Uber lawyer who handles employee complaints.

Jacobs, who was fired from Uber in April, has charged in the letter that his termination came in retaliation for his refusal to participate in what he viewed as unethical and illegal activities.

The activities, which the lawyer detailed in the letter were allegedly perpetrated by Uber's Threat Operations (ThreatOps) group. That group "frequently engaged in fraud and theft, and employed third-party vendors to obtain unauthorized data or information," Jacobs' lawyer charged.

For instance, the letter alleges that between 14 and 16 December 2016, the ThreatOps team infiltrated a WhatsApp group and collected information from it.

"Jacobs reported that infiltrating WhatsApp groups was unlawful and would get Uber kicked out of [redacted]," Jacobs' lawyer said in the letter. "His concerns were ignored."

The letter alleges that Uber:
"1) remotely accessed confidential [redacted] corporate communications and data, 2) impersonated riders and drivers on [redacted] platform to derive key functions of [redacted] rider and driver apps, 3) stole supply data by identifying possible drivers to boost Uber's market position, and 4) acquired codebase which allowed MA to identify code used by [redacted] to understand in greater detail how [redacted] app functioned."

While much of the ''hacking'' or other forms of surveillance appeared to rely on these types of automated systems, the company also carried out physical surveillance, including wiretaps, in order to identify competitors' advantages or weaknesses.

The company ''used undercover agents to collect intelligence against the taxi groups and local political figures. The agents took rides in local taxis, loitered around locations where taxi drivers congregated, and leveraged a local network of contacts with connections to police and regulatory authorities,'' the letter alleges.