I wrote about Uber's dirty laundry pile on Monday, but this pile may reach the moon – and soon. As Ars Technica reported on November 28th, Richard Jacobs, an ex-Uber security official, gave astonishing testimony on Tuesday about his former colleagues, identifying what he called the "overly aggressive and invasive" actions, including seeking code accidentally made available on GitHub and internal use of "ephemeral and encrypted" communications including through Wickr and "non-attributable machines."
US District Judge William Alsup has delayed the trial, in which Alphabet's self-driving car division has accused Uber of massive data theft.
The case began back in February, when Waymo sued Uber and accused one of its own former employees, Anthony Levandowski, of stealing 14,000 files before he left Waymo and went on to found a company that was quickly acquired by Uber. The case is expected to have a big impact on the future of autonomous vehicles and who will emerge dominant in the field.
Read the article to get the full details of two sealed letters in the case, one from federal prosecutors and one from a lawyer representing Mr. Jacobs who worked for Uber's Strategic Services Group, a now-disbanded secretive intelligence division within the company. Jacobs testified yesterday and seemed to retreat somewhat from the statements in his lawyer's letter.
The ex-employee said he left the company earlier this year and was paid a previously undisclosed $4.5 million settlement. Jacobs remains a paid consultant to the company as a way of assisting investigations of previous wrongdoing at Uber.
Judge Alsup said later in the hearing that he would seek to release the United States Attorney's letter.
He had strong words for Uber and its attorneys, saying, "I want Uber to supply all documents in the entire company that have anything to do with ephemeral, anything to do with non-attributable devices, and anything to do with false attorney/client privilege," he said. "We have to get more to the bottom of this shadow system that Uber set up and it may turn out to be nothing, but it may turn out to be an important way to conceal the testimony." The judge continued, saying, "Well it turns out that the server is only for the dummies and the real stuff goes on the shadow system. It would just be wrong, it would be unfair not to give them a chance to [get this.] There's enough under oath to believe that there is a 50-50 chance that this will be bad for Uber and there's a 50-50 chance that it will be a dry hole."
Alsup didn't mince words: "Any company that would set up such a surreptitious system is as suspicious as can be," adding "You're making the impression that this is a total cover up." The judge ordered Uber to produce a list of all the employees that had, or used "Wickr or any other self-deleting communication systems."
A new trial date has not been set. Boy oh boy, you can't make this stuff up. I can't wait for the next round of revelations - and, of course, the movie.
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Digital Forensics/Information Security/Information Technology