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March 21, 2023

China Could Be Harvesting All of Your Personal Data Through TikTok -- Even If You Don't Use TikTok

China can download individual information via TikTok, but even if you're not on TikTok, web-crawlers can scour the internet for data about you from other networks.

The social media app TikTok has been a focus for concerns that the Chinese government could access data on individual users. Whether the app poses a security risk remains unclear, but TikTok has been banned from government devices in several countries.

However, reports suggest that computer-based tools designed to collect data from publicly available sources can also collate extensive information on TikTok users -- as well as those on other networking apps. These Open Source Intelligence tools need no special access to apps. This raises questions that apply to all forms of social media.

In 2015, on a visit to the United Kingdom, President Xi Jinping of China said: "The Chinese government supports Chinese companies in going global. But we believe that this process should be market-oriented, with companies being the main driver."


You might be forgiven for thinking this was yet another classic piece of corporate engineering resulting in an Internet sensation. However, some governments in Europe and North America seem to think that TikTok is more than a simple commercial enterprise.

TikTok has been a lightning rod for a shift in sentiment that has seen the United Kingdom, European Union, Canada and the United States ban the app from government devices on grounds of security. TikTok narrowly missed being banned completely from the United States in 2020 by then-President Donald Trump. That threat has been revived under the Biden administration.

Much of the worry about TikTok is fueled by Chinese government legislation compelling companies based in the country to cooperate with state authorities as required. It's an open question whether TikTok is really a security risk; it could also be a company caught in the crossfire of tensions between countries.

Security concerns were supported by a report in 2022 from cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0. Their investigations appeared to show that TikTok was capturing data with the potential to be useful, should someone wish to build a profile of the user.

This would have remained a purely theoretical threat if the data were not being passed back to China. For a long time, TikTok insisted any data collected by its servers could not be accessed by anyone in China.

In November, the company changed its privacy policy. It now said staff in China could access data. In fact, it went further, stating that European users' data was accessible to TikTok staff in Brazil, Canada, Israel, the United States and Singapore. This did little to help quell security concerns.

The fact that China -- and Russia -- and other countries -- and hostile US corporations -- are all collecting data is especially ominous when you consider the "Store Now, Decrypt Later" agenda.

Currently, most encrypted data is protected by RSA encryption, which encrypts data using a ferociously large number. The keys to decrypting this data are the prime number factors which were multiplied to generate that ferociously large number.

For all intents and purposes, a good RSA is uncrackable within any reasonable about of time -- it could take decades to break an RSA code.

But that's with current computers. Quantum computers don't have many advantages over normal computers, except a big one -- they can factor ferociously large numbers into their prime factors like no one's business. A code that might take a normal super-computer 10 years to break could take a quantum computer minutes or hours.

But quantum computers don't work well -- yet. The emphasis very much on the "yet."

While quantum computing is so difficult to achieve we don't have any quantum computers that can do anything beyond simple calculations, experts expect that we'll have fully-developed quantum computing in 10 to 20 years, at most.

And that means that all the data which is currently safe from computer code-breaking attempts will become easily breakable in 10 to 20 years.

Thus, "store now, decrypt later." Simply download all the encrypted data you can now, and store it. You can't break those codes now -- but you will be able to in the near future.

And when all that encrypted data is suddenly easily read -- that will be a "quantum apocalypse" for data protection.

Cybersecurity experts have warned that hackers are stealing data now to decrypt it in the future, as quantum computing could render modern encryption methods obsolete.

Quantum computers are expected to shake up our world for better -- and, potentially, for worse.

These powerful machines merge computer science and quantum physics to vastly increase processing power, and can solve certain types of problems much faster than a conventional computer.

Once true quantum computers become a reality, they are expected to surpass modern computers in almost every way, performing calculations that would otherwise be impossible.

However, there is a growing concern among cybersecurity experts that the quantum apocalypse is approaching. This is a term used to describe the predicted fallout of quantum computers being able to solve current cryptographic algorithms quickly.

Jason Soroko is the CTO of PKI at cybersecurity firm Sectigo. He told that while quantum computing has progressed in a linear way, we have to anticipate "eureka" moments that could really speed up its advancement.

"It is a matter of when rather than whether quantum computers will change the digital world as we know it," Soroko said.

But there are already suggestions that sensitive data is being stolen by hackers to be decrypted in a quantum future, setting an urgency to update modern encryption methods.

And meanwhile China just downloads, downloads, downloads.

digg this
posted by Ace at 05:25 PM

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