Tesla Data Breach Exposes Personal Information Of Over 75,000 Individuals: Inside Job By Former Employees Confirmed

By   ISBuzz Team
Writer , Information Security Buzz | Aug 22, 2023 03:45 am PST

In a startling revelation, Tesla, the Austin, Texas-based electric carmaker, has confirmed that a data breach in May this year led to the exposure of personal information of over 75,735 individuals. Details of the breach were disclosed on Monday, and it seems the company has traced the breach to two of its former employees.

Data Leaked to German Media

The breach’s discovery was initiated when German media outlet Handelsblatt informed Tesla on May 10, 2023, that it had obtained confidential information belonging to the company. The leaked data included identifiable information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers.

Former Employees Behind the Breach

Tesla’s internal investigation into the matter revealed that two former employees had misappropriated the information, in direct violation of the company’s IT security and data protection policies, and subsequently shared it with the media outlet. The affected individuals include current or former employees of Tesla and even include nine residents of Maine.

Legal Action and Forensic Investigation

Tesla acted swiftly in response, identifying the employees responsible, filing lawsuits against them, and seizing their electronic devices believed to contain company information. The company also obtained court orders prohibiting the former employees from further use, access, or dissemination of the data, and these orders are subject to criminal penalties.

Steven Elentukh, Tesla’s data privacy officer, stated that the company had cooperated with law enforcement and external forensics experts in the matter.

A Chilling Reminder of Insider Threats

The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the potential threats posed by insiders within an organization. Insider wrongdoing was directly responsible for this breach, highlighting the importance of rigorous internal security measures even for a cutting-edge company like Tesla.

Tesla’s Commitment to Security

In a letter dated Aug. 18 to those impacted, Tesla confirmed the details of the breach and the steps taken, emphasizing that the company “will continue to take appropriate steps as necessary.”

The occurrence of this significant data breach at one of the world’s most prominent technology companies underscores the importance of comprehensive cybersecurity measures that include both external threats and potential internal vulnerabilities.

Elon Musk-run Tesla’s situation will undoubtedly prompt many organizations to reevaluate their own security policies to prevent similar incidents from occurring. The long-term impact on Tesla’s reputation remains to be seen, but the company’s transparent handling of the incident may go some way toward restoring trust in its commitment to data protection.

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Nikhil Girdhar
Nikhil Girdhar , Senior Director of Data Security
August 22, 2023 11:47 am

“The recent data breach at Tesla, which compromised the sensitive information of 75,000 employees due to insider misconduct, brings to the forefront a common dilemma many companies face: balancing employees’ need for data access for business operations while minimizing security risks.

One best practice for managing insider risk is to limit sensitive data access to only employees and vendors who require it for their tasks. This is easier said than done; manual access governance often leads to “permissions leakage,” where employees end up with broader data access than necessary. However, automating access controls based on employee roles and using anonymization techniques such as data masking or synthetic data generation can reduce the number of employees accessing sensitive information without hindering business projects.

Continuous monitoring of user activity, especially activity involving access to sensitive data, serves as the second pillar of a strong defense strategy against insider threats. Despite having stringent access controls in place, companies must remain vigilant for signs of suspicious activity, such as substantial data exports or the unauthorized use of external storage devices. AI-based anomaly detection techniques can be powerful, enabling teams to flag and block suspicious activity in real-time and defend against insider risks.”

Last edited 6 months ago by Nikhil Girdhar
Almog Apirion
Almog Apirion , CEO & Co-Founder
August 22, 2023 11:46 am

“This attack underscores the crucial impact of over-permissioned internal users within an organizations’ infrastructure. In this instance, the sheer amount of sensitive employee and customer information – including Elon Musk’s own SSN – publicly distributed poses a serious threat for potential ramifications. The news highlights the need for proper security protocols and overall cyber hygiene.  

To reduce the risks of insider threats, modern strategies are essential. These encompass adopting advanced technologies like zero-trust access and high-risk identity management, which enable swift asset restriction, constant authentication and real-time access control. Embracing such security measures ensures organizations safeguard their internal infrastructure.

While malicious insiders can’t be eliminated, internal access can be confined to essential personnel, and in the case of people leaving the company, they no longer have access to any assets.”

Last edited 6 months ago by Almog.Apirion

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