Cyber Security Implications - Everything You Should Know About The Upcoming TikTok Ban


Suppose you’re one of the one billion monthly active users on TikTok worldwide or a dedicated follower of "LawTok". In that case, you have likely come across news reports about a potential TikTok ban in the United States. With proposed laws aiming to regulate or even completely ban TikTok in various American jurisdictions, a lot is happening. That's why we are updating you on the TikTok ban situation.

TikTok isn't the first app to face scrutiny regarding the potential exposure of U.S. user data, but it is the first widely utilized app the U.S. government has suggested banning due to privacy and security apprehensions.

Currently, conversations have revolved around the question of whether TikTok ought to be banned. The scant discussion has touched upon the possibility of a TikTok ban, but very little has been said concerning the cybersecurity implications that could arise from a ban on TikTok. This includes the possibility of users bypassing security features to access the app and avoiding the ban altogether.

So in this post, we'll discuss extensively on everything you should know about the potential TikTok ban and the cybersecurity implications of this huge decision by the congress.

TikTok Ban in the US: An Overview 

Several laws in the United States have either banned TikTok or have the potential to do so. One such legislation is the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, which was passed by the House on March 13, 2024. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Biden, this Act could lead to the prohibition of TikTok in the US. Under this law, TikTok would need to separate from its parent company ByteDance within 165 days or face a complete ban from US app stores and websites. Additionally, other foreign-owned services or applications could also be banned if they are deemed a national security risk under the RESTRICT Act.

The Proposed RESTRICT Act, introduced by Congress on March 7, 2023, aims to give the Secretary of Commerce the authority to ban companies linked to specific foreign adversaries from operating within the United States. The adversaries identified in the bill include China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela (specifically under Nicolás Maduro Moros' regime). While not explicitly naming TikTok, the bill could potentially empower the Secretary of Commerce to enforce a ban on TikTok in the country, sparking concerns about a nationwide prohibition.

The RESTRICT Act has undergone two readings in the Senate as of June 2023 and has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for further examination. In a separate development, the No TikTok on Government Devices Act was signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022. This legislation prohibits federal employees from downloading or using TikTok on devices owned by the federal government and its affiliated corporations, a restriction mirrored by an increasing number of states.

One notable instance is Montana, which in May 2023 became the first state to pass a law banning TikTok. The legislation sought to prevent entities like Apple and Google from facilitating access to TikTok within Montana, with plans for the ban to take effect in January 2024. However, a federal judge has since intervened, temporarily halting the implementation of the ban.

Why is TikTok Being Banned in the United States?

The United States government is concerned about short-form videos due to potential security risks, rather than the content itself. There are fears that TikTok's owner, ByteDance, may be pressured by the Chinese government to share user data, jeopardizing Western security interests. Allegations of TikTok spying on American journalists are being investigated by the Justice Department, further raising security concerns.

TikTok’s Privacy Policy

The types of information that TikTok may collect from users include profile information such as usernames, passwords, birth dates, and contact information. User content such as uploaded photographs, audio, and videos are also collected. Messages sent or received through the platform’s messaging functionalities are recorded as well. Purchase information such as payment cards, billing details, delivery information, and items purchased are collected by TikTok.

The platform also tracks how users interact with the platform, inferred information, technical information like IP addresses, time zone settings, mobile carriers, and keystroke patterns, as well as location information.

What is TikTok’s Response To The Potential Ban?

TikTok has dismissed the bans as mere "political theater" and condemned lawmakers for trying to silence Americans. In a message displayed to users in March, the app encouraged them to reach out to lawmakers to speak out against a potential TikTok ban, resulting in an influx of calls to Capitol Hill offices. Additionally, the company has actively lobbied to support its proposed solution to national security issues.

Can TikTok be Really Banned In The Network?

The initial proposal required ByteDance to divest from its U.S. subsidiary within six months, but negotiations resulted in an extension to nine months. Furthermore, if a sale is already underway, the company will be granted an additional three months to finalize the transaction.

It may take at least a year for a ban to be enforced, but with potential court battles, this timeline could be further prolonged, possibly stretching for years. While TikTok has had some victories in court before, it has not previously attempted to block federal laws from being implemented.

Can I Still Access TikTok After The Ban?

Teenagers have a reputation for finding ways to bypass restrictions on social media set by their parents, so finding ways around the U.S. government's ban on TikTok is not out of the question. One method could involve using a VPN to hide their location, accessing alternative app stores, or even inserting a foreign SIM card into their phone.

However, this requires some level of technical knowledge and there is no guarantee of success. It's more probable that users will switch to other platforms like Instagram, which has features similar to TikTok such as Reels, or YouTube, which now includes short vertical videos in its feed to compete with TikTok. These videos are often sourced directly from TikTok itself. Additionally, popular TikTok creators are likely to be active on other platforms, making it easy for users to find similar content elsewhere.

What Security Risk Does Using TikTok Pose?

Lawmakers from both political parties, along with law enforcement and intelligence officials, have consistently raised alarms about the possibility of Chinese authorities compelling ByteDance to provide data on the 170 million Americans who utilize TikTok. This concern is rooted in Chinese national security laws that mandate organizations to cooperate with intelligence operations, a requirement that ByteDance would likely be obligated to adhere to. The authoritarian government in China also exercises extensive control through various measures, amplifying worries about potential data access and surveillance concerns.

According to data privacy experts, it is possible for the Chinese government to access information on Americans through various means, such as commercial data brokers who specialize in selling or renting personal information.

Lawmakers and certain administration officials have raised concerns about the possibility that China could influence ByteDance to manipulate TikTok content to align with its interests. TikTok has refuted claims that it could be utilized as a tool by the Chinese government, asserting that it has never disclosed U.S. user data to Chinese authorities and will continue to withhold such information if requested.

Cyber Security Risks for Businesses Using TikTok

Using TikTok can pose significant risks to businesses due to data privacy and security concerns. One of the main dangers is the possibility of data breaches, as sensitive information may be disclosed on the app, or employee accounts could be hacked. As a result, businesses must implement measures to safeguard their confidential data and prevent unauthorized access to it.

An additional risk lies in employees inadvertently disclosing sensitive information on TikTok. This scenario can occur when employees access the app on company devices or share content containing proprietary or confidential data. Such actions can result in severe reputational and legal ramifications for companies, particularly if customer data or financial details are compromised.

Moreover, the inappropriate use of TikTok by employees can jeopardize a company's reputation. Should employees act in a manner that reflects poorly on the company while using the platform, it has the potential to damage the brand and undermine customer trust. Such outcomes could have lasting effects on the company's overall success and financial standing.

In order to minimize these risks, it is advisable for companies to provide their employees with training on the potential hazards of TikTok usage and establish explicit rules for appropriate usage of the platform. This could involve implementing a ban on using TikTok on company devices or networks, or mandating that employees maintain separate accounts for personal and professional purposes.

It is important for companies to implement data encryption measures and other security protocols in order to protect their sensitive information. Regular security audits should also be conducted to identify and address any potential vulnerabilities, ensuring that company data is being managed in a secure and responsible manner.

While TikTok can serve as a valuable platform for companies to engage with customers and promote their brand, it is essential for companies to understand the potential risks involved and take necessary measures to safeguard their data privacy and reputation. By implementing proper security protocols and establishing clear guidelines for the app's acceptable usage, companies can mitigate the risks associated with TikTok and ensure the security of their data and reputation.

It is important to acknowledge that the privacy and data collection concerns associated with TikTok are not exclusive to the platform. However, due to its widespread popularity, TikTok is subject to heightened scrutiny. Therefore, as an organization, it is advisable to reassess the utilization of other platforms within your company's infrastructure as well.

How Do I Protect My Data When Using TikTok?

To maintain your privacy on TikTok, you can use the same strategies as you would on other social media sites, such as not granting apps access to your location or contacts. Additionally, you can view TikTok videos without creating an account.

If you must use the TikTok app, here are tips to protect your data.

1. Use a strong and unique password: Make sure to create a strong and unique password for your TikTok account to prevent unauthorized access.

2. Enable two-factor authentication:Enable two-factor authentication for an extra layer of security. This will require a verification code in addition to your password when logging in.

3. Be cautious with what you share:Avoid sharing personal information such as your full name, address, phone number, or any sensitive data on your profile or in your videos.

4. Adjust your privacy settings:Review and adjust your privacy settings to control who can view your videos and interact with you on the platform.

5. Update your app regularly:Make sure to update the TikTok app regularly to ensure you have the latest security patches and features.

6. Avoid clicking on suspicious links:Be cautious of any links or messages you receive on the platform, especially from unknown users. Avoid clicking on suspicious links that could potentially be phishing attempts.

7. Use a VPN:Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection and protect your data from potential hackers or snoops.

8. Limit data sharing:Be mindful of the data you share with TikTok and other third-party apps connected to the platform. Consider limiting the permissions you grant to these apps to reduce the risk of data exposure.

Stay One Step Ahead In The Digital Dance With TikTok's Ban: Unravel The Cyber Security Implications For Your Protection

As the impending ban on TikTok looms closer, it's crucial for you to be aware of the potential cyber security implications that may arise. From data privacy concerns to the possibility of malicious actors exploiting the ban for their gain, there are several risks that you need to be prepared for.

By staying educated and vigilant about the cyber security implications of the TikTok ban, you can take proactive steps to protect their personal information and ensure their online safety. This includes being cautious about the apps and platforms you use, carefully reviewing privacy policies, and remaining informed about potential security threats.

Stay one step ahead in the digital world with our expert insights and guidance. Secure your online activities and protect your privacy with the right cybersecurity measures. Contact us today to get expert counseling on how to protect your data online from these rising threats

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