Uber concealed a massive global breach of the personal information of 57 million customers and drivers in October 2016, failing to notify the individuals and regulators, the company acknowledged on Tuesday 21 November.
Uber also confirmed it had paid the hackers responsible $100,000 to delete the data and keep the breach quiet, which was first reported by Bloomberg.
“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement acknowledging the breach and cover-up. “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes.”
The Guardian reports that hackers stole personal data including names, email addresses and phone numbers, as well as the names and driver’s licence numbers of about 600,000 drivers in the United States. The company said more sensitive information, such as location data, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers, and birth dates, had not been compromised.
In his statement, Khosrowshahi said the company had “obtained assurances that the downloaded data had been destroyed” and improved its security, but that the company’s “failure to notify affected individuals or regulators” had prompted him to take several steps, including the departure of two of the employees responsible for the company’s 2016 response. Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan was one of the two employees who left the company, Bloomberg reported.
The company’s failure to disclose the breach was “amateur hour”, said Chris Hoofnagle of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. “The only way one can have direct liability under security breach notification statutes is to not give notice. Thus, it makes little sense to cover up a breach.”
“The hack and the cover-up is typical Uber only caring about themselves,” said Robert Judge, an Uber driver in Pittsburgh, who said he had yet to receive any communication from the company. “I found out through the media. Uber doesn’t get out in front of things, they hide them.”
Uber said in a statement to drivers that it would offer those affected free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.
According to Bloomberg, the breach occurred when two hackers obtained login credentials to access data stored on Uber’s Amazon Web Services account. Paul Lipman, CEO of cybersecurity firm BullGuard, said that holding that the fact that the data was being stored unencrypted was “unforgivable”.
The New York state attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into the data breach, a spokeswoman confirmed.
Uber’s potential civil liability from the breach is complicated by the fact that the United States’ various federal appellate courts are divided over how to treat data breach lawsuits. Some courts allow individuals to join class action lawsuits if they are simply at greater risk of having their identities stolen due to a breach, while other courts require plaintiffs to show that their personal information has actually been misused.