TikTokers in Congress are compromising cyber and data security

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

The new legislative session began a little later than expected this year, as an anti-establishment resistance looked to block what was initially expected an easy and predestined anointing of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as House Speaker.

Once the session began, several new bills, some of which really do not have any realistic chance of passing through the Democrat-controlled Senate, began to be reported by news outlets as evidence that conservative hardliners that opposed the eventual House Speaker had gained some concessions from the mainstream or “establishment” GOP as a result of their calculated early year theatrics.

There should be no expectation that the Democrat-controlled Senate will actually look to advance a bill to President Biden’s desk that derails any portion of the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act,” nor will “uni-party” legislators on both sides of the aisle support Senator Josh Hawley’s Pelosi (Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments) Act.

But there actually is one critical issue that should resonate with all of DC, and it relates to shoring up America’s substandard cyber-defenses. If ever there was an issue where legislators of both parties and in both chambers could reach consensus, this is it.

2022 played host to countless hacking attacks and other cyber events initiated by state-sponsored hacking syndicates, with many of the more notable attacks birthed as a part of the still-ongoing Ukraine War.

And in the early part of 2023, we’ve already seen several significant attacks that have crippled hospitals and compromised financial services. Although overall ransomware attacks affecting businesses were down 61 percent in 2022, average Americans are being targeted by literally thousands of new malware strains that are proliferating weekly.

STOP/Djvu Ransomware variants like MZQW and a steady rise in adware like Adjustable Box have placed individuals, who don’t have the luxury of an on-site IT team, in the digital crosshairs of online profiteers.

But despite the fact that the dangers associated with hacking are regularly discussed on Capitol Hill, earlier this month, a review by States Newsroom showed that a whopping 32 members of Congress, 31 Democrats and 1 independent, had TikTok accounts as of early January.

Although there are currently no specific laws that ban lawmakers from using the app on personal devices, these legislators should know better than to risk their data getting into the hands of Chinese leadership, as laws in the communist country allow for the government to legally commandeer the data held by TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance.

Among the members of Congress reported to have still been on TikTok as of early January, about half of them either currently sit or have previously sat on committees that regularly deal with matters related to foreign affairs, the military, or national security.

Some of the more notable congressional “TikTokers” include Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). In the case of Booker for example, it can be assumed that he is privy to various classified matters as a result of his seat on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. Booker uses TikTok to reach his more than 329,000 followers and has tallied over 2.8 million likes.

TikTok collects user information that includes location data, contacts, and browsing histories. This data can potentially be used to physically track US officials placing them potentially in harm’s way or may possibly even subject them to foreign-based extortion plots.

The fact that this irresponsible behavior and potential danger exists only among Democrats and one Independent should not be overlooked by American voters, and these individuals must be held accountable where it matters most – the ballot box.

Additionally, with this information now coming to light as the Special Counsel Investigation into President Joe Biden’s mishandling of classified documents heats up, the Republicans seem to be getting more and more serious talking points to take into the coming 2024 election season.

The so-called “adults in the room” have a really bad habit of repetitively compromising national security. From maintaining unsecured private servers, to selling off our strategic oil reserves, the Joe Biden classified documents scandal and now this TikTok fiasco, it is quite possible that the United States has never been in more immediate danger than this very moment in time.


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Julio Rivera


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