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TikTok Is Secretly Reading Your Clipboard

TikTok China

Apple has recently fixed a serious problem in iOS 14, where apps were apparently able to secretly access the clipboard of users’ devices. With this new iOS update, however, users will receive a warning whenever an app copies something to the clipboard. 

Worryingly, one of the apps that were caught snooping was China’s TikTok. There have already been numerous security concerns raised about TikTok from reports emerging that the app is stealing data to releasing software with security vulnerabilities. 

Even though TikTok had previously pledged that it was going to discontinue this behavior, the practice was still being continued. Users of TikTok discovered that the app was checking content from the clipboard every few keystrokes, and even when the app was running in the background. 

Android and iPhone

Even though TikTok had mentioned that they have submitted an update to the App Store to remove the feature, there doesn’t seem to be any updates made to Android devices. While the platform has stated that they are committed to protecting their user’s privacy and are transparent about how the app works, it currently doesn’t have a great track record. 

As mentioned earlier, TikTok has come under criticism for previous security issues. In 2019 for example, the company had apparently violated a children’s privacy law by allowing children under 13 years old to sign up for the app without parental consent. Countries like India along with numerous US government agencies have also banned the use of the app citing security concerns. 

What’s concerning, however, was that when this issue was previously uncovered, TikTok had adamantly denied that they had anything to do with the problem, and mentioned that it was related to an outdated library in their app. At that time, the app had also mentioned that they were in the midst of fixing the issue. 

Privacy alarms 

This news has set alarm bells ringing for numerous privacy campaigners. With cyberattacks currently on the rise during the COVID-19 crisis, many have speculated that the actor behind these cyberattacks is China. With TikTok also being an app owned by a Beijing-based internet technology company, individuals have grown cautious, and many have resorted to deleting the app from their phone. 

While this situation isn’t ideal however, some cybersecurity experts have also mentioned that there’s currently no evidence that the app was sending the data anywhere other than the phone. They’ve also mentioned that sometimes there are legitimate reasons as to why apps require clipboard access. 

Recent research has also indicated that there are dozens of apps out there that have also accessed the clipboard. There are games, messaging platforms, and even news channels that ask for clipboard data. While it’s not clear what these apps were doing with the data, it’s evident that TikTok isn’t the only app accessing your clipboard. 

Looking to the future

Privacy is going to become a consistent theme over the course of the next year with the onset of COVID-19, and continuous technological development. While there are things that we can do to protect our privacy, the most important is to secure data—especially organizational data. 

There’s a need to be prepared for any sustained attacks and threats that may happen, and if you don’t have the resources or budget to secure the data on your own, you may want to consider investing in a managed service provider that’ll help you with remaining vigilant against any ongoing threats.  

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