Uber Gets Serious About Security With Latest Hire

Uber is getting serious about security. The popular ride-hailing company hired Facebook's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan to head up its own security department, the New York Times reports today. 

Given that Uber has been at the center of a number of security snafus in recent months, the hire comes at an important time.

In February, Uber revealed that a May 2014 hacking attempt may have leaked the data of 50,000 of its current and former drivers. Last week, Vice's Motherboard learned that active Uber accounts are on sale on the black market for $1 apiece, including a user's username and password, as well as the last four digits of their credit card and its expiration date (Uber denies this data was taken off its servers, however). And, there are all the other questionable practices the company has come under fire for, like being lax about its user database and even posting publicly about user habits on its blog. The company is being sued by San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys for not providing sufficiently robust background checks on its drivers (who have committed a laundry list of alleged sexual assaults, kidnappings, and other crimes), and the service has been blocked in a growing number of countries and metropolitan areas. 

"With millions of riders being supported by an always-growing data infrastructure, we’ve invested significantly in expanding and improving safety and security," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post announcing the hire. "It’s no longer about traditional metrics for safe transportation or keeping our community’s data private and secure, but about how we lead efforts to redefine and strengthen physical and data security in the location-based world."

Sullivan, Uber's new hire, comes with a pedigree in digital privacy and security knowledge. After a role as a federal prosecutor specializing in high-tech crime, Sullivan spent four years as a senior director of eBay's Trust and Safety Department. After acting as general counsel for PayPal and then Facebook, he took up the role of Chief Security Officer at the latter in 2010.  

At Facebook, Sullivan helped the social network battle spammers inundating the site with violent and pornographic images, Russian hackers, money-hungry survey scammers, and pedophiles trying to reach out to minors on the site. Sullivan also acted as the gatekeeper for government requests on user information.

At Uber, Sullivan will work with Katherine Tassi, Uber's managing counsel of data privacy, and Phil Cardenas, its head of global security.

"I’m excited about Uber’s mission of revolutionizing transportation and...firmly believe building world-class safety and security are critical to that mission," Sullivan says in Uber's blog post. "This is a chance to help build the culture of a young and growing organization, and to continue building upon the safety and security initiatives that are the backbone of Uber’s success."
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