Ex-Uber security chief Joseph Sullivan faces obstruction of justice case

Ex-Uber security chief Joseph Sullivan faces obstruction of justice case
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Former Uber chief security officer Joseph Sullivan has been charged with obstruction of justice in the US in relation to the 2016 data breach at the firm.

Joseph Sullivan, the former security chief at ride hailing company Uber, is facing a case of obstruction of justice in the US for allegedly trying to cover up a data breach in 2016 that exposed the details of 57 million Uber drivers and passengers.


Obstruction of justice

According to the charges filed by the US Department of Justice, Sullivan had taken “deliberate steps” to stop the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from discovering the 2016 incident.

Sullivan, who was fired in 2017 when the data breach was discovered, is accused of approving the $100,000 payment to the hackers, which was in the form of bitcoin. According to the filing, the payment was disguised as a “bug bounty” reward

Bug bounty rewards refer to payments made to cyber-security researchers who disclose vulnerabilities so they can be addressed.


He allegedly asked the hackers to sign non-disclosure agreements, falsely stating they had not stolen any Uber data.

US lawyer David Anderson said: “Silicon Valley is not the Wild West. We expect good corporate citizenship. We expect prompt reporting of criminal conduct. We expect co-operation with our investigations. We will not tolerate corporate cover-ups.”

Brad Williams, a spokesman for Sullivan said he denied the charges and argued: “If not for Mr Sullivan’s and his team’s efforts, it’s likely that the individuals responsible for this incident never would have been identified at all.”


Sullivan currently serves as chief information security officer at cyber-security firm Cloudflare.

Uber was forced to pay $148 million to settle legal claims by all 50 US states and Washington DC as a result of the data breach.

Levandowski receives 18 months prison term

Earlier this month, Anthony Levandowski, a former executive at Uber who oversaw its self-driving vehicle program, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to trade secret theft.

In 2017. Levandowski became the centerpiece of a high-profile lawsuit filed by Google against Uber. According to Google, Levandowski, one of the founding members of its self-driving car project, downloaded thousands of confidential files to a personal hard drive before resigning from the company.

After leaving Google in January 2016, Levandowski established Otto, an autonomous trucking startup, which Uber acquired later that year.

In a Department of Justice press release, US District Judge William Alsup said: “This is the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen. This was not small. This was massive in scale.”

As part of the sentencing on one count of trade secret theft, Levandowski received a fine of $95,000 and was ordered to pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo.

As part of a plea deal, federal prosecutors dismissed the remaining 32 counts against Levandowski.

However, due to the risks of the coronavirus pandemic, it remains unclear when the former Uber executive will serve his time.

A statement from Levandowski’s counsel, Ismail Ramsey & Miles Ehrlich of Ramsey & Ehrlich LLP, read: “We’re thankful to Judge Alsup for allowing Anthony to stay out of custody for now, given the extraordinary circumstances brought on by the pandemic.”

It added: “Anthony deeply regrets his past decisions and, while we are saddened that he will to have to spend time in prison, Anthony remains committed to his life’s mission of building innovative technologies to improve people’s lives.”