UK Security Minister Scrutinizes TikTok App Over Security Threats

By   Adeola Adegunwa
Writer , Informationsecuritybuzz | Mar 15, 2023 06:08 am PST

The UK security minister Tom Tugendhat, the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK, is examining whether or not the Chinese-owned video app TikTok ought to be prohibited from being used on official cell phones. Because of concerns that user data might be disclosed to the Chinese government, jeopardizing Western security interests, TikTok has come under growing investigation.

The ByteDance Ltd.-owned Chinese program has already been blocked from use on official computers and mobile devices in the United States, Canada, Belgium, and the European Commission. When asked if he wanted TikTok banned from British government phones, Tugendhat responded, “Understanding exactly what the issues that these apps represent, what they are asking for, and how they’re reaching into our lives is vitally important.

“I’ve requested the National Cyber Security Center to look into this because of this. I haven’t heard back yet. I won’t offer you that response just yet, so. I can’t,” he added further. In a different interview with Times Radio, he emphasized the need “to make sure that our phones are not spyware, but beneficial instruments for us.

TikTok did not respond to the assertion right away. It has, however, previously asserted that restrictions are wrong and founded on fundamental misunderstandings. According to legislation that the White House supported last week, the administration could ban TikTok and other foreign-based technology if they pose concerns to national security.

In a revision to its plan for security and foreign policy, Britain declared on Monday that China posed an “epoch-defining challenge” to the international system. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded to inquiries from ITV about whether the British government was considering a ban on TikTok by saying, “We look at what our partners are doing.” Rishi Sunak was in the United States on tour on Monday.

We need to safeguard sensitive data’s confidentiality, integrity, and security. And we always do that and take the necessary actions to make sure that occurs,” he continued. By the middle of February, TikTok had been downloaded 210 times in the U.S. alone. Around the world, the app has more than 1 billion active monthly users, according to a Wallaroo Media article.

TikTok App On Government Phones Being Considered In Britain

According to the country’s security minister, who is investigating potential security dangers posed by the Chinese-owned app, Britain may join the United States, the European Union, and Canada in banning TikTok from government phones.

To keep Britain’s “diplomatic processes free and safe,” Minister of State for Security Tom Tugendhat stated on Tuesday that he had requested the National Cyber Security Center to investigate TikTok.

“We must check to see if there is spyware on our phones. It’s crucial to understand the issues these applications present, the information they seek, and the extent to which they influence our lives, ” he said.

“What is undeniably evident is that TikTok is become a news source for many young people. And just as it is necessary to know who owns the news sources that are coming into our phones, we need also know who owns the news sources in the United Kingdom.”

Parliament already shut down its own TikTok account after lawmakers voiced security concerns in the previous year. The declaration on Tuesday came the day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared that Britain would consider the government phone bans enacted by the U.S., E.U., and Canada.

To remove TikTok from government devices, the White House has given agencies 30 days. Western governments are closely monitoring TikTok due to security and data privacy concerns. They are concerned that the app may be used to further pro-China policies or gather and transmit user data to Beijing.

The business argues it functions the same as other social media platforms and refutes claims that it provides data to the Chinese government. Due to worries about potential cyberattacks, the E.U. Commission and more than half of the U.S. states have already introduced a prohibition.

Lawmakers will question TikTok about a range of issues, including surveillance and kid safety. The Office of Management and Budget of the White House told government agencies 30 days to remove TikTok from the work devices of its employees and contractors in a document dated February 27.

TikTok was prohibited from government-issued devices under legislation that the U.S. Senate passed in December. Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) No TikTok on Government Devices Act was approved unanimously and will now go to the House for approval.


The Minister for Security has considered adopting other governments’ policies and prohibiting TikTok from being used on company phones. In the U.S. and E.U., TikTok has faced criticism for security and data privacy issues. Some people worry that TikTok might be used to collect data from gadgets and advance pro-China ideologies. A prohibition and response to concerns about potential cyberattacks, the E.U. Commission, more than half of the U.S. states, and Congress have suggested them. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also made a suggestion that the U.K. should ban the app from work phones, saying that the country will “look at what our partners are doing.” 

Hence Lawmakers voiced their worries; the U.K. parliament shut down its TikTok account last year. Mr. Tugendhat has confirmed he has requested the National Cyber Security Agency to look into the app. He added that it is crucial to understand the problems these applications present, the information they seek, and the extent to which they are influencing our lives. It’s evident that TikTok has become a news source for many young people. And just as it is crucial to know who owns the news sources that are streaming into our phones, we need also to know who owns the news sources in the U.K. Various nations have adopted various strategies.

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Will LaSala
Will LaSala , Director of Security Services, Security Evangelist
InfoSec Expert
March 16, 2023 11:02 am

“As a security person, TikTok being allowed to collect any and all data from a device is dangerous. There is talk about how a rogue nation could collect this information, monitor the movements of a population, and then use that to plan targets. This is real and is already happening — it’s how brick-and-mortar stores know you’re nearby and start notifying you of deals they are having. However, banning is always a band-aid and never a solution. Education is part of the solution, but really application providers and operating system manufacturers need to address some of the concerns.

Apps can already self-protect from leaking information and allowing other apps access to their data. The problem is that many of these app providers are not using this technology and are actively avoiding it because it might hurt the user experience. This allows these bad actors and bad apps to glean even more information. Many app providers are relying on operating system manufacturers to secure their apps, but the operating system is never going to be completely secure due to the many different demands being put on its development. (That is not to say that the operating systems shouldn’t be addressing these problems.) Instead, app developers should be made aware of the security tools available, security tool vendors need to make sure they aren’t causing negative user experiences, and OS manufacturers need to implement controls that can be used to help mitigate the risks. Users should be able to quickly see what data is being collected, when it is being collected and for what purpose and should be able to shut off the stream of a specific type of data in real time at any time.”

Last edited 6 months ago by Will LaSala

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