Tesla data breach illustrates importance of internal controls

Tesla is once more in the news, this time following a truly massive data leak. German media resource Handelsblatt stated the Tesla data breach leaked tables containing more than 100,000 names of former and current employees, including the social security number of Tesla CEO Musk, along with private email addresses, phone numbers, salaries of employees, bank details of customers and secret details from production. Allegedly leaked was also Musk’s private itinerary.

 The revealed Tesla data breach has lessons for organizations across the board, raising concerns about internal controls and the lack thereof with regards to data access and data handling standards. At the same time, the breach represents another in a long line of cybersecurity failures and leaks putting consumer information at risk, and is likely to continue driving further discussion on regulation and state-enforced best practices moving forward.

Some sources give the origin of the leak as a whistleblower; Tesla claims the man was a disgruntled employee who took and sold the confidential data. In either case the result remains the same – an internal leak. As a result of this uncontrolled release of information, Tesla is coming under scrutiny and may be held liable for a truly massive fine. The EU’s sweeping privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, allows EU countries to fine companies up to 4% of annual revenue for infringement. In the case of Tesla, which brought in $81.5 billion in revenue in 2022 according to its end-of-year earnings report, that could amount to a $3.3 billion fine.

What lessons can we take from the Tesla data breach?

First and foremost, the immediate takeaway for organizations is that they need to institute better controls internally on their data. While cybersecurity measures are becoming ever more complex and thorough, there is no accounting for human error or inaction and these measures have to be put in place and upheld to work.

A strong first step for ensuring internal security is to isolate data by areas of responsibility; leaving aside deliberate internal action such as this case, a common cybersecurity failure for organizations in all fields is giving admin permissions or too much access to a wide swathe of their members. Even in cases without malicious action from a disaffected employee, this still exposes you to risk by giving external threats easy access to a wider range of your systems through compromising a single point of failure.

The problem with this approach tends to be that restricting data access increases workload on admins and can potentially slow down the pace of work. Employers who are faced with the prospect of having an overworked admin team have to manually grant individual access requests are likely to compromise on security and remove the perceived bottleneck. Fortunately, there’s a better solution.

Improve your internal controls with contentACCESS

TECH-ARROW can offer a solution that best matches the outlined problems; on the security side, contentACCESS archive and backup has a proven record in keeping our clients safe from external threats. Data can be securely held in our archive and backup in order to be isolated from any potential data breaches or corruptions, and continuously accessible throughout.

In terms of internal controls, contentACCESS strikes the best possible balance between permissiveness and control. The system administrator team is able to track who accesses files in the archive, keeping a firm degree of control over users. At the same time, users are able to automatically access their own data storage, bypassing access requests sent to the admin team.

If your organization is prepared to take their next steps to prepare their internal structures against threats – internal or external – contact us! Our team is ready and waiting to be in touch and help you best prepare your company for whatever the future may bring.


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by Matúš Koronthály