It is hardly a secret that, for nearly 30 years, I have been warning about the danger posed to US national security by the simultaneous combination of our growing reliance on Chinese technology, and our general indifference to China’s huge technological “leaps forward” in the realm of cybersecurity.
At the same time, I do use Tik Tok, an app that many American officials would like to ban due to the app being owned and operated by a Chinese concern.
In fact, not only do I use Tik Tok, but, I was among its first professional users in the USA, having joined its musical.ly predecessor nearly 7 years ago.
There is no contradiction: While few people may choose to do so, it is possible to use Tik Tok safely. And, with relatively little effort, manufacturers of phones and other electronic devices on which Tik Tok is run can apply better security by default whenever people choose to use Tik Tok or any other particular popular Chinese app.
Unfortunately, the current infatuation with Tik Tok as the symbolic representative of the risks to U.S. national security emanating from Chinese technology may be more dangerous to both the American people and the United States as a country than Tik Tok itself has ever been.
Chinese hardware — not apps and/or other forms of software — poses, by far, the greatest risk to American national security.
That is not to say that the dangers posed by Chinese software are not valid concerns – of course they are. But, the reality is, that, for multiple reasons, rogue hardware threatens to undermine security and inflict related damage in a far more catastrophic fashion than does software. Making matters worse, problematic hardware is also far harder to detect, identify, and remove once deployed into production than is its software counterpart.
Earlier today, Newsweek published an op-ed that I wrote on this important topic. To read the piece, please see Cybersecurity Expert: Banning a Chinese App Like TikTok Is a Red Herring That Ignores a Greater Danger, on Newsweek.com.