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Chinese TikTok employees admit to hacking Buzzfeed, FT reporters' accounts

The four employees, all of whom have since been fired, gained access to Criddle and Baker-White's IP addresses and other sensitive data via their TikTok accounts.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC

TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, has admitted that two staff members in China and two in the United States hacked the accounts of Financial Times journalist Cristina Criddle and former Buzzfeed reporter Emily Baker-White, who now works for Forbes.

The company said that the hacks were carried out by the team of four who were looking into potential leaks of internal communications by ByteDance employees to journalists.

The four employees, all of whom have since been fired, gained access to Criddle and Baker-White's IP address and other sensitive data via their TikTok accounts.

ByteDance's general counsel Erich Andersen explained that a "misguided plan was developed and carried out by a few individuals within the Internal Audit department this past summer," adding that the four individuals "misused their authority to obtain access to TikTok user data."

According to the Forbes, the revelations came about following an investigation into ByteDance conducted by the company's global legal compliance team alongside an external law firm. 

As the New York Times reports, ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang said he was "deeply disappointed" by the situation, lamenting that, "The public trust that we have spent huge efforts building is going to be significantly undermined by the misconduct of a few individuals."

His sentiments were echoed by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who said that they "take data security incredibly seriously." He added that the company has been working to create a new Oracle data storage system based in the US and delete any US data that was not stored there.

Both Criddle and Baker-White have written numerous pieces for their respective outlets that shed light on potential security risks for American users of TikTok and ByteDance.

The investigation that led to the four employees being caught was spurred on by one such piece.

The news comes as many officials across the country work to limit the app's use. The Senate, for example, recently passed a bill prohibiting the app from being downloaded on any government devices.


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