Image: Austin Ramsey via Unsplash
Image: Austin Ramsey via Unsplash

Tesla blames data breach affecting 75,000 on ‘insider wrongdoing’

Tesla has reported a data breach in the U.S. affecting more than 75,000 current and former employees after two insiders shared information taken from its internal systems with a German newspaper.

In a letter sent to current and former employees and shared with the office for the Attorney General in Maine, Tesla blamed “insider wrongdoing” for the breach which included personal data and Social Security numbers.

The car manufacturer explained: “A foreign media outlet (named Handelsblatt) informed Tesla on May 10, 2023 that it had obtained Tesla confidential information.”

According to the letter, the company’s internal investigation “revealed that two former Tesla employees misappropriated the information in violation of Tesla’s IT security and data protection policies and shared it with the media outlet.”

Tesla said it had been told by the newspaper that “it does not intend to publish the personal information, and in any event, is legally prohibited from using it inappropriately.”

The Handelsblatt, a German business newspaper, reported in May that it had received 100 gigabytes of data from insiders at Tesla.

The files, which were shared in the context of investigations by U.S. authorities into the company’s self-driving software, raised questions about technical challenges facing the manufacturer’s automated driving systems.

The data shared with the newspaper included thousands of customer complaints regarding Tesla's self-driving features, including reports of cars braking or accelerating suddenly without driver input.

When the newspaper sent Tesla questions about the data it had received, including those regarding the company's policies to prevent accident data being shared with customers, it said it received a demand from Tesla to delete the “stolen data.”

Tesla’s letter to Maine's attorney general said: “Among other things, we identified and filed lawsuits against the two former employees. These lawsuits resulted in the seizure of the former employees’ electronic devices that were believed to have contained the Tesla information.”

The current status of these lawsuits is not clear.

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.