Uber paid hackers to cover up massive data breach

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SAN FRANCISCO Uber Technologies paid hackers US$100,000 (S$135,000) to keep secret a massive breach last year that exposed the personal information of about 57 million accounts of the ride-service provider, the company said.

Discovery of the US company's cover-up resulted in the firing of two employees responsible for its response to the hack, said Mr Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO in August.

"None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it," Mr Khosrowshahi said in a blog post. The breach occurred in October last year but Mr Khosrowshahi said he had learnt of it only recently.

The hack is another controversy for Uber on top of sexual harassment allegations, a lawsuit alleging trade secrets theft and multiple federal criminal probes that culminated in Mr Kalanick's ouster in June.

The stolen information included names, e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers of Uber users around the world, and the names and license numbers of 600,000 US drivers, Mr Khosrowshahi said.

Uber passengers need not worry as there was no evidence of fraud, while drivers whose licence numbers had been stolen would be offered free identity theft protection and credit monitoring, Uber said.

Two hackers gained access to proprietary information stored on GitHub, a service that allows engineers to collaborate on software code. There, the two people stole Uber's credentials for a separate cloud-services provider where they were able to download driver and rider data, the company said.

A GitHub spokesman said the hack was not the result of a failure of GitHub's security.

"While I can't erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes," Mr Khosrowshahi said.

"We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers."

Bloomberg News first reported the data breach on Tuesday.

Mr Khosrowshahi said Uber had begun notifying regulators. The New York attorney-general has opened an investigation, a spokesman said.

Regulators in Australia and the Philippines said yesterday they would look into the matter.

Uber said it had fired its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, and a deputy, Craig Clark, this week because of their role in the handling of the incident. Mr Sullivan served as both security chief and deputy general counsel for Uber.- REUTERS