Trust & Security at Uber: My First Year
Matt Olsen, Chief Trust & Security Officer
October is Security Awareness Month and I’m lucky to also be celebrating my first year at Uber. As we focus on our security program this month, over the next few weeks our riders will see simple tips from our security experts in the Uber app, such as how to use two-step verification to protect your account from unauthorized logins.
I joined Uber just over a year ago to lead a rapidly growing team of security experts with a range of skills and experiences including engineers, physical security experts, privacy architects, hardware and cloud security professionals, and former law enforcement officials. What unites us is our dedication to protecting the people who depend on our technology and services, and exploring new areas of innovation to advance the broader security community. We operate in an increasingly complex landscape of threats — across the digital and physical worlds — and a global patchwork of regulations at all levels of government.
One Year In
For most of my career, I helped lead national security efforts for the U.S. federal government, working as a federal prosecutor, an intelligence community lawyer, and the head of a counter-terrorism agency. I joined Uber in 2018 because I was eager to work with the amazing people here and help them tackle really hard challenges.
In the government, I often worked in partnership with private sector companies that were targeted by security threats or that contributed threat intelligence to help protect national security. And since joining Uber, I have gained a better appreciation for the threats and demands facing the private sector, especially global companies tasked with developing comprehensive solutions to serve a diverse set of customers, cities, and communities. Indeed, I can say with confidence that the security challenges Uber faces today can be as complex and dynamic as the challenges governments face.
Unlike most technology companies, our business operates at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds, and this is especially true for security. Our presence on the ground in more than 700 cities around the world means we face a steady stream of diverse threats every day.
As Uber continues to grow, a basic challenge for our team is operating in an incredibly unique set of markets in more than 60 countries and under various regulatory regimes, while at the same time holding true to our global commitment to data security and privacy for everyone who uses our platform. For example, when Uber decides to launch in a new city, we must work through a tangle of questions that go well beyond the pros and cons of local market conditions. Our team will assess the physical security landscape in the city, potential data security risks, and local rules and norms on engaging with local law enforcement.
Today’s threat landscape is increasingly challenging. For one, adversaries are becoming more adept at pulling off increasingly sophisticated attacks, and we’ve seen a general trend toward destructive attacks across industries — efforts to destroy data or take down networks — going well beyond simply disruptive attacks or data extraction.
We’ve also observed a melding of cyber and physical vulnerabilities, as our world becomes ever more connected and dependent on digital networks. These trends introduce a new concern beyond traditional data protection and is why our team at Uber includes experts in both digital and physical security.
In tackling these challenges, the single word that best captures our mission is trust. We build trust with our customers by protecting their data and their privacy and with our employees by keeping them safe, while we work in collaboration with law enforcement to help protect the communities we serve. We look to enable our business to thrive — safely and securely — using our expertise, technology, and partnerships to make security a trusted tenant of our brand.
So after years in the federal government, life at Uber is definitely an adventure. But mainly it’s an opportunity to work alongside smart and dedicated colleagues, all striving together to build a secure and safe platform that changes how people move on a global scale.