TikTok acknowledges exploit targeting high-profile accounts


TikTok says its security team is addressing an issue that allowed hackers to compromise several high-profile celebrity and brand accounts on its video platform, including those belonging to Paris Hilton, CNN and Sony. The ByteDance-owned video app maker didn’t provide any information about the nature of the attack or the company’s mitigation techniques, instead saying only that it had taken measures to stop the attack and prevent it from happening in the future.

The malicious attack, as reported earlier by Semafor and Forbes, appears to have involved malware transmitted through TikTok’s direct messages and may have affected the account owners’ ability to access their TikTok profiles. The hackers’ goals were not immediately clear, as none of the affected accounts had begun to post content.

According to Semafor, CNN’s account was broken into by a hacker last week, requiring the account to be taken down for several days. The news organization said it was working with TikTok on additional measures to ensure the account remained safe in the days ahead, including during the U.S. presidential elections.

Reached for comment, TikTok declined to share more details about the nature of the attack or its countermeasures, so as not to “tip off” potential malicious actors.

“Our security team is aware of a potential exploit targeting a number of high-profile accounts,” a company spokesperson said. “We have taken measures to stop this attack and prevent it from happening in the future. We’re working directly with affected account owners to restore access, if needed.”

The attacks arrive at a time when TikTok’s influence in the U.S. is under question. Citing national security concerns, President Biden in April signed the bill that will force TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance to sell the app or be banned from operating in the U.S. If ByteDance doesn’t sell, it will become illegal for app stores to distribute TikTok when the law goes into effect.

TikTok has since sued the U.S. government over the law, which will tie up the case in courts for many months to come. In the meantime, one of TikTok’s earlier critics, Donald Trump — the first president to try to ban the app in the U.S. — has now taken to the app to campaign.

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