Ban of Tik Tok could leave many vulnerable to hacking threat

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The battle over the ‘Tik Tok’ has now escalated, as the Chinese government says it won’t agree to the sale of it and its Companion App ‘We Chat’ saying it’s extortion. 

Meanwhile, there’s worry that a ban on downloading the apps will leave them vulnerable to hackers. 

‘Tik Tok’s’ videos still flood the internet as 100 million of us continue to use it, even though the president declared a state of emergency last August concerning the use of the app.

He wants downloads of the app banned saying in an executive order its Chinese owners pose a threat to national security because they “capture vast swaths of information” allowing the Chinese government to “access to American’s personal and proprietary information.”

Trump fears they could use that information “to build dossiers for blackmail” or “corporate espionage.”

But, the electronic Genie is out of the bottle, and has been for years.

“Apple, Microsoft, Google, they all have lots of data points on us,” said security expert Craig Petronella. “There are thousands of data points on everyone, he said. “All the movements, with all the sensors on your phone, it’s all being cataloged and it’s only getting worse.”

The Chinese company Byte Dance owns ‘Tik Tok’ and it’s companion app ‘We Chat’ which is also being banned by executive order.

They are being singled out for privacy concerns and there is some validity in that, but it goes deeper.

If you can’t download updates to the apps, that leaves them open to criminal hackers.

“If it’s abandoned, no patches are available, there will be holes discovered and exploited — publicized over the internet and there’s a risk of compromise,” said Petronella.

One of the concerns with ‘We Chat’ is that it doesn’t have what’s called end-to-end encryption. That means its data could be intercepted. There also could be backdoors into the system.

“Here’s the big problem with that,” said Petronella. What happens when bad actors find those same back doors and exploit them? Then we have a bigger problem.”

When electronic back doors are discovered, developers usually send out updates to fix them, but banning new downloads of the app will prevent patches from being implemented.

Petronella said that could make ‘We Chat’ and ‘Tik Tok’ less secure.

Meanwhile, if American companies end up owning those apps, the data collection will continue, just under another company’s name.

Security experts say, the real problem with all data collection is that it’s unregulated and until that issue is resolved, banning an app here or there doesn’t really help control who uses the vast mountains of data we all generate daily.

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