Saturday, April 25, 2020

Are Hackers Stealing Your Information on TikTok?

TikTok, the smartphone app hailing from China that allows its users to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos to be shared with their following. The app beloved by teenagers and used daily by hundreds of millions of people around the globe, has had its fair share of security vulnerabilities. Check Point, one of the top cybersecurity companies in Israel, published research claiming the app can potentially allow hackers to manipulate user data and divulge personal information.

What Did Check Point Find?

Check Point researchers tested TikTok’s security weaknesses by sending themselves links with malware that allowed them to take control of other accounts, upload content, delete videos, and make private videos available to the public. The researchers were also able to retrieve TikTok users’ personal information, including names and birth dates.

Another flaw the Check Point found was a weakness that would allow cyberattackers to send TikTok users messages containing malicious links. Once the user opened the link, the attacker would have been able to take control of their TikTok accounts. Researchers were also able to retrieve personal information from user’s accounts through the official TikTok website. Check Point did send a summary of the TikTok security flaws to the Department of Homeland Security in the United States. Oded Vanunu, Check Point’s head of product vulnerability research, Oded Vanunu said: “The vulnerabilities we found were all core to TikTok’s systems.”  

Is TikTok Safe to Use?

Upon learning of the findings of Check Point’s research, TikTok has claimed to fix all of their vulnerabilities. These changes were said to be implemented in December 2019. TikTok is one of the few Chinese success stories in the West. The app is especially popular among younger users, and predictions show by the end of next year, TikTok could surpass Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snap in the number of downloads. The problem with newer apps like TikTok is that it’s a breeding ground for hackers looking to target new services that haven’t gone through years of testing and extensive security research. Plus, many of the app’s users are young and potentially not educated or mindful of cybersecurity precautions or security updates. Members of the TikTok security team are claiming the app is safe to use for all, and the privacy of their users will remain a top priority.

More Shortcoming for TikTok:

Back in February 2019, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against TikTok, stating the app illegally collected personal information from minors. In the charge, another popular app, which is owned by TikTok, was said to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the complaint. It’s still not the end of the road, TikTok is being investigated by the British Information Commissioner’s Office to determine if the app has violated European privacy laws.   

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