The Uber Breach Case Study: Cybersecurity Lessons Learned


Industry: Personal transportation industry

About Uber

Uber, a global transportation technology company that has revolutionized the way people travel, work, and connect in the modern world. Founded in 2009, Uber has rapidly grown to become one of the most recognizable and disruptive brands in the transportation and technology industry.

How Did the Data Breach Occur?

Uber, a globally recognized ride-sharing and technology company experienced a data breach, as a result of a sophisticated cyberattack. The attack was orchestrated by a hacker affiliated with the hacking group known as Lapsus$. The breach was identified on September 19, 2022, at 10:45 am PT, as reported by the Uber Team via their official newsroom.

The breach unfolded as follows:

  1. Compromised Contractor Account: An external contractor working with Uber had their account compromised by the attacker. The attacker likely gained access to the contractor’s Uber corporate password through illicit means, potentially purchasing it on the dark web.
  2. Malware Infection: The contractor’s personal device became infected with malware, which exposed their login credentials. This breach provided the attacker with a significant foothold.
  3. Repetitive Login Attempts: The attacker repeatedly attempted to log in to the contractor’s Uber account. Initially, these attempts were blocked by two-factor authentication (2FA), as the contractor received approval requests. Eventually, the user accepted one of those requests, allowing the attacker to successfully access the account. A classic example of Social Engineering where human error was caused as a result of MFA fatigue.
  4. Elevation of Privileges: Once in, the attacker leveraged this compromised account to access other employee accounts. This enabled them to gain elevated permissions, including access to vital tools such as G-Suite and Slack.
  5. Message Post and Configuration Change: The attacker posted a message on a company-wide Slack channel, informing employees about their successful intrusion. They also reconfigured Uber’s OpenDNS to display a graphic image on some internal sites, affecting employees’ access.

What Was Compromised?

The Uber data breach, which saw the compromise of their Privileged Access Management (PAM) platform, has had far-reaching consequences, critically impacting the company’s security posture. The breach revealed the severity of the incident, as it potentially granted the attacker access to multiple internal systems and services that Uber relies on.

The list of systems that were compromised:

  1. Thycotic (PAM)
  2. Google Workspace Admin
  3. AWS Instance
  4. SentinelOne (XDR)
  5. VMware vSphere
  6. Slack Workspace
  7. HackerOne
  8. UberInternal Financial Data

What was the Impact of the Data Breach as a Whole?

The impact of the Uber data breach was massive. Here’s an impact analysis of the breach:

  1. Hacker Had Access to Thycotic (PAM)
    • Data Exposure: The attacker gaining admin access to the Thycotic PAM system was a severe blow to Uber’s security. Privileged Access Management or PAM tools are designed to secure, control, and monitor access to critical information and resources. With access to Thycotic, the attacker unlocked a treasure of sensitive credentials and passwords, compromising the security of various Uber systems.

  2. Hacker Had Admin Access to Uber’s Google Workspace:
    • Data Exposure: The hacker having administrative access to Uber’s Google Workspace raised concerns about the potential exposure of sensitive corporate documents, emails, and communication records.
    • Privacy and Confidentiality: The breach threatened the privacy and confidentiality of internal corporate communications, including strategic plans, employee information, and sensitive business data.
      uber breach 2022 google workspace

  3. Hacker Had Access to Uber’s AWS (Amazon Web Services):
    • Security Vulnerabilities: Unauthorized access to Uber’s AWS services posed a significant security risk, potentially allowing the hacker to manipulate or exfiltrate data.
    • Data Loss or Manipulation: The breach may have put data stored in AWS, including customer information and operational data, at risk of loss or manipulation.

      uber breach 2022 aws

  4. Hacker Had Access to Uber’s SentinelOne (XDR):
    • Network Vulnerability: Access to Uber’s firewall could have enabled the hacker to manipulate network traffic, compromise communication channels, and potentially gain deeper access to the company’s systems.
    • System Control: This could potentially grant the hacker control over network traffic and even disrupt the company’s operations or compromise data.

      uber breach 2022 sentinalone

  5. Hacker Had Admin Access to Uber’s VMware vSphere:
    • Comprehensive System Control: VMware vSphere, a cloud computing virtualization platform, interfaces with both cloud and on-premise servers. This breach exposed Uber to a range of critical vulnerabilities:
      1. On-Premise Server Risk: The attacker could potentially infiltrate on-premise servers, jeopardizing data security, executing unauthorized commands, and moving laterally through Uber’s infrastructure.
      2. Cloud Resource Manipulation: Administrative access enabled the attacker to manipulate cloud resources, potentially disrupting services, misusing computing power, and impacting critical system availability.
    • Administrative Privileges: With admin access, the attacker gained control over vital administrative functions within Uber’s infrastructure. This level of access empowered them to escalate privileges, manipulate system settings, and potentially disrupt operations or compromise sensitive data.

      uber breach 2022 vMware

  6. Hacker Had Access to Uber’s Slack:
    • Communication Exposure: Gaining access to Uber’s Slack workspace jeopardized the privacy of internal communications. Messages exchanged on Slack, including sensitive discussions and file sharing, might have been compromised.
    • Operational Disruption: The breach in Slack could have disrupted internal communication channels, potentially affecting collaboration and operational efficiency.

      uber breach 2022 slack

  7. Hacker Had Access to Uber’s HackerOne Account
    • Detailed Vulnerability Information: HackerOne is a platform used by organisations to compensate and collaborate with security researchers who identify vulnerabilities in systems, offering rewards for their contributions. The severity of this breach is underscored by the amount of detailed information often provided by security researchers. Access to the HackerOne account could have exposed these detailed “how-to” guides on exploiting vulnerabilities within Uber’s IT systems.
    • Potential for Persistent Threat: The attacker, having accessed HackerOne, could have gained valuable insights into unpatched vulnerabilities across Uber’s systems. This knowledge can potentially enable persistent threats, as the attacker might exploit these weaknesses over time.

      uber breach 2022 Hackerone

  8. Hacker Had Access to Uber’s Financial Data:
    • Financial Risk: Access to Uber’s financial data posed significant financial risks. The breach may have exposed sensitive financial information, making it susceptible to misuse or extortion.
    • Reputation Damage: The compromise of financial data potentially damaged Uber’s reputation, affecting investor confidence and customer trust. As a result, Uber’s share price dropped overnight.
      uber breach 2022 financial datauber share price post data breach 2022

How organisations can protect against incidents like the Uber data breach?

Social engineering was the root cause of the Uber breach, and in this instance, MFA Fatigue allowed the hacker to gain access. With the continuous advancement of AI, hackers and their tactics are growing more sophisticated every day. Traditional security awareness and training methods are no longer sufficient. Organizations must shift their focus towards bringing behavioural change by influencing users’ psychology. Smart, gamified learning holds the key.

  1. Implement Network Segmentation:
    • Network Isolation: Organizations can minimize the impact of a breach by segregating their networks into separate segments. This strategy will help contain potential intrusions, limiting the lateral movement of attackers within the network.
    • Access Control: Apply the principle of least privilege. Implementing network segmentation ensures that employees and systems only have access to the resources and data required for their roles, reducing the attack surface for potential breaches.
  2. Strengthen Privileged Identity Management and Privileged Access Management (PIM/PAM):
    • Granular Control: Robust PIM/PAM solutions grant organizations the ability to control, monitor, and secure privileged identity and access to critical systems. This includes the enforcement of strong access policies, multi-factor authentication, and continuous monitoring of privileged accounts.
    • Audit Trails: Keeping detailed audit trails helps organizations track privileged access and detect unusual activity, enabling swift responses to potential breaches.
  3. Understanding the Human Error Factor:
    • Smart Adaptive Training and Awareness: Humans are the most attacked vectors and, organizations must invest in gamified employee training and awareness programs. This not only involves running advanced phishing simulations but also, educating staff about phishing threats, best practices, and making them suspicious by nature.
    • Continuous Monitoring: What you can measure, you can manage! Implement tools that continuously assess and monitor employees’ behaviour to detect unusual patterns and potential insider threats.
  4. Building a Human-Centric Security Culture:
    • Build the culture of reporting: Establish a company-wide culture that prioritizes security and encourages employees to be vigilant. Encourage and enable them to report suspicious activities with 1 click, fostering a collaborative approach to cybersecurity.
    • Clear Policies and Reporting Mechanisms: Ensure that employees understand company security policies, know how to easily and seamlessly report incidents, and feel supported in doing so.
  5. Train Your Employees to Alter the Psychology:
    • Automate and Gamify the Learning Experience: There are over 20,000+ types of attack scenarios. You cannot train your employees for all. Instead, you can make them suspicious by nature by altering their psychology. It’s crucial to both automate and gamify the learning experience in order to alter the psychology. Automation ensures that employees receive timely and relevant training, staying up-to-date with the ever-evolving threat landscape. By introducing gamification elements, learning becomes engaging and competitive, motivating participants to enhance their security awareness.
    • Seeing is believing: Conducting live hack show demonstrations is essential for organizations to provide a hacker’s perspective and help users understand just how vulnerable they can be to cyberattacks. It can help them to stay motivated not only to protect the organisation but also, to ensure vigilance for their personal safety.


The crucial lesson from this Uber breach is that in today’s evolving cybersecurity landscape, continuous training and putting people at the centre of security are paramount. Human error, often unintentional, can lead to dire consequences, making it crucial for organizations to invest in robust security awareness training. It’s not just about technology; it’s about bringing the culture of security and ensuring that employees are well-prepared and enabled to recognize & respond to threats efficiently. This human-centric approach is key to preventing cyberattacks and safeguarding sensitive data.