TikTok apologizes after 4 employees caught hacking accounts of at least 2 US reporters

Chinese-owned TikTok is apologizing after two employees in the US and two employees in China were caught hacking the accounts of at least two journalists and a number of other users’ accounts as the company attempted to discern where a leak had come from.

Financial Times reporter Cristina Criddle and Forbes reporter Emily Baker-White, who used to work for Buzzfeed, had their TikTok accounts hacked. The four employees who hacked those accounts work for ByteDance which is TikTok’s parent company. Both are controlled by the communist Chinese.

“ByteDance used TikTok to track my location — and the locations of two of my colleagues — to try to find our sources. We reported on this back in October, but kept things vague to protect sources. Today ByteDance admitted it, so we can say much more,” Baker-White tweeted.

“‘I don’t know when they first tried to track me, but I am comforted by the fact that I never gotten into using TikTok the app,’ @ebakerwhite tells @_brittanylewis after ByteDance confirmed it used TikTok to monitor journalists, including her,” Forbes reported in a tweet.

(Video Credit: Forbes)

Criddle was identified by The Financial Times on Thursday as another reporter who was hacked.

Forbes is also claiming that two other employees, Richard Nieva and Katharine Schwab, were tracked. TikTok’s internal emails admit the company tracked Criddle and White as well as a “small number of people connected to the reporters.”

ByteDance employees were trying to figure out where internal conversations were being leaked by tracking Criddle and White’s IP addresses. The four employees were part of a team that monitors employee conduct. They didn’t find any connection between the journalists and ByetDance employees. They have since been terminated and the team allegedly no longer has access to US data.

Chris Lepitak, ByteDance’s Chief Internal Auditor, was responsible for the team that hacked the accounts. Lepitak has also been fired and China-based executive Song Ye who Lepitak reported to has resigned, according to Forbes.

ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang sent an email to company employees reportedly telling them, “I was deeply disappointed when I was notified of the situation… and I’m sure you feel the same. The public trust that we have spent huge efforts building is going to be significantly undermined by the misconduct of a few individuals.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told employees, “We take data security incredibly seriously” and noted that the company has worked hard for more than a year to create a new US-based data storage program to show its “testament to that commitment,” according to the New York Times.

The incident started back in June 2022 when Baker-White published an article at Buzzfeed reporting that she had listened to 80 internal TikTok meetings that were leaked, indicating US user data was repeatedly being accessed by China. She went on to state in another Forbes piece in October 2022 that ByteDance was planning on using TikTok to monitor the location of specific American citizens.

Criddle has authored a number of pieces concerning TikTok. One article asserted that dozens of TikTok employees were leaving the London office over toxic working conditions. There was also allegedly a “kill list” of employees the company reportedly wanted to boot one way or another.

TikTok has been banned by dozens of states on government phones and lawmakers are raising alarm bells over security risks posed by the Chinese-controlled social media platform according to The New York Times. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is working on legislation that would ban it outright in the US.

The company has begun migrating US data stateside to an Oracle data center located in Silicon Valley according to the Daily Mail. The move is meant to calm Americans’ fears of spying by the communist Chinese. It’s not working.

The data accessed by the ByteDance employees was not housed at the Oracle facility yet according to the New York Times.

Senator Josh Hawley has bluntly asserted TikTok is the “back door for the Communist Party to track keystrokes, contact lists, and location, and there is no way to turn it off.”

“Under Chinese law, ByteDance is obligated to turn over data and that is a major privacy risk for Americans,” he remarked this week in a statement.

Hawley has introduced a bill that would ban TikTok on all federal devices.

DONATE TO AMERICAN WIRE

If you are fed up with letting radical big tech execs, phony fact-checkers, tyrannical liberals and a lying mainstream media have unprecedented power over your news please consider making a donation to American Wire News to help us fight them.

Thank you for your donation!

Comment

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. If a comment is spam, instead of replying to it please click the ∨ icon below and to the right of that comment. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.

Latest Articles