Today Uber announced that they have hired Joe Sullivan as their new chief of security. This will be a much-needed security boost for them, as they have been under much scrutiny as of late for their security, or lack thereof. Uber was able to lure Sullivan from Facebook, where he started working back in 2008. This move conveys that they are taking the subject of security very seriously now, as there has been much scrutiny over the company’s security policies, or lack thereof.
The hiring of their first Chief of Security comes at a very appropriate, and crucial time for the company. Just last week, it was reported that Uber user accounts had been hacked, and charged for rides that they had never requested. Uber is currently providing refunds to the customers who were erroneously charged. Apparently there is a correlation between these phony charges, and the sale of fake Uber accounts on the dark web.
The company has had a spotted history of similar hacks, and security issues. It was reported in February by Uber that one of their database servers had been hacked. The result was thousands of their driver’s names, addresses, and license numbers were exposed. The disclosure of this breach was also brought into question, since the incident actually had occurred in September of 2014. It took Uber nine months to make the announcement public.
It is expected that Uber’s new security chief will not only be dealing with security in the cyber world. They will also get a much-needed boost in the physical, and perceptual kind of security as well. In August of 2014 the company had to remove a driver from its roster after it was discovered that they suffered from epilepsy. The driver had hit three parked cars, and a pedestrian while having a seizure. There is also the perception of security from a rider’s standpoint of getting into a stranger’s personal car, and having them operate it.
Sullivan comes to Uber with quite the tech pedigree. Six years of security experience at Facebook. Before becoming chief of security for Facebook, he was a lawyer there for a few years, and before Facebook, a lawyer at PayPal as well. Sullivan has a bachelor’s degree in political science which he obtained from Providence College. In the late 1990’s he served as a federal prosecutor in the Bay Area just around the time of the dot-com boom. He began taking on more tech cases, and his connections in Silicon Valley began to grow. His first job in security was with Ebay where he was the senior director of trust and safety.
Sulivan arrives looking forward to the challenge he has before him. The way he sees it, he now has the opportunity to take the technology that Silicone Valley is so very well-known for, and apply it to something that everyday people use on a daily basis. To get to where they need to go, in all of the world’s cities. The much-needed boost that Uber is getting, will not only show in the security of their servers and volatile information, but also with their physical riders and drivers as well.
By Alec Rosenberg
Photo by Adam Fagan – Flickr License