Why You Need a VPN for TikTok
With over 800 million active users worldwide and over 1.5 billion downloads, TikTok, the video-sharing social network, is one of the most popular apps in the world right now. Despite its popularity, TikTok is no stranger to privacy and security concerns, and many security professionals have questioned the legitimacy of how it processes user information.
In March this year, U.S. senators voted to ban the app from all U.S. government devices over surveillance fears. Questions are still being raised about the ownership of the app and even TikTok is keen to cast doubt on any claims that its parent company, Byte-Dance, is not a Bejing-company, but is actually incorporated in the Cayman Islands.
A growing number of countries including India and Indonesia have now banned TikTok and with many more potentially following suit, it’s worth knowing what kind of risks you’re exposing yourself to by using it.
Why TikTok Isn’t Safe
Security professionals have published several reports that expose TikTok’s vulnerabilities. In January, researchers at Check Point discovered major security issues that allowed attackers to manipulate videos and steal confidential personal information. This could be done by the attacker sending a spoofed SMS message to a user containing a malicious link, a variation of a common malware attack. If the user clicked on this link, the hacker would be able to access the user’s TikTok account and manipulate its content by deleting videos, uploading unauthorized videos (jeopardizing the account), and making ‘private’ or ‘hidden’ videos viewable by the public.
In February, another report highlighted that clipboards on iPhones and iPads are open to exploitation by apps on those devices such as TikTok. TikTok reads the content of the clipboard whenever it’s opened. It’s impossible to determine what TikTok is doing with this user information, if it’s doing anything at all, but the data is definitely being read by them and security professionals are unable to figure out why without any kind of clarification from TikTok.
In April, TikTok picked up more controversy after Forbes reported that security researchers had managed to exploit a weakness by taking advantage of an insecure HTTP connection. TikTok uses a HTTP connection rather than a more secure HTTPS connection as it allows for the quicker delivery of its video content, but it also makes the network easier to intercept and manipulate. If hackers were able to gain control of the user’s’ router, they could easily launch a man-in-the-middle attack.
Many have concerns about the ownership of TikTok too. Bytedance, which owns TikTok, is known by many places as being China’s equivalent of Facebook. Lawmakers and regulators who are wary of China’s power and the way it processes information are concerned about the app and how it may be used to spy on American citizens.
What You Can do To Keep Your Privacy
Once you’ve created an account with TikTok, it’s ultimately up to them to take care of your information and make sure it doesn’t end up in the hands of hackers. When you sign up, you’ll be asked for your full name, date of birth, and email address. No matter what kind of steps you’re taking online to protect this kind of information from other people, you can’t do anything to stop people accessing that information from TikTok if they find a way to obtain it.
However, there is an effective way of protecting yourself from the security flaws within TikTok to make sure you never fall foul of any kind of malware attack or man-in-the-middle attack.
You should always use a VPN when you’re connected to TikTok. This way, you’re encrypting the information you’re transferring over a secure network, making it less likely for someone to intercept your connection and get hold of your valuable personal information.
Make sure you choose the best VPN for Tiktok that’s committed to protecting the security of its users. Some VPNs offer dual connections to private servers, which means your information is encrypted twice. Double the protection. You should also make sure your VPN has a clear no-logging policy. You can read more about the key security features you should look out for with your VPN by clicking here.
If you have children that use TikTok, you should make sure you’ve taken the time to sit down with them and explain the potential dangers of the app. As well as the issues uncovered by security professionals, many parents are concerned about the content of certain videos on the platform and how easy it is for users to watch explicit content. If you’re not sure if your child is using TikTok or not, it’s important to ask them and ensure they’re fully aware of the implications of sharing personal content on a public platform.
For more information on how to protect your children online, you can read our guide to internet safety.