The recent “Spy Balloon” embarrassment for the Biden administration at the hands of China was one of the more telling symptoms of a much more severe disease that continues to fester in the halls on Capitol Hill.
Between intellectual property theft, unabated hacking attacks, and many unanswered questions as to the origins of the COVID-19 disaster, China has been emboldened to behave as if it is now the most powerful superpower that has ever existed.
The ineptitude that has continually surfaced over the past 2 years of the Biden presidency seemingly knows no bounds. From the border crisis to the botched Afghanistan pullout to the runaway inflation that Americans have suffered through, the divided congress is yet to provide any remedy, or at the very least, comfort voters by providing even a semblance of stability.
But despite their ideological differences, legislators across party lines should all agree that inadequate cyber-defenses and personal data security are a matter of priority.
Last year, ransomware and other malicious attacks, many of them believed to be backed by state actors, caused major disruptions and cost entities in both the private and public sectors billions of dollars. The ongoing Ukrainian War has been cited as one of the most prominent examples of these kinds of incidents.
And so far in 2023, ransomware attacks have already been a major threat to the hospital and financial services industries. Although overall ransomware attacks on businesses decreased by 61% last year, new and sophisticated malware variants are emerging each week, creating a severe threat to national security.
Although many Americans associate data security with the major attacks against large corporations and governments that make headlines, it’s actually individuals that are more vulnerable to newer ransomware strains and the growing prevalence of adware.
So as the upper level of the Executive Branch seemingly snores at the wheel, the onus is on Congress to take immediate action to safeguard American cybersecurity and prevent these malicious assaults from going unaddressed. Especially as a new shock report from States Newsroom revealed that 32 members of Congress – 31 Democrats and 1 independent – were still using TikTok as of early January.
Given the security risks posed by TikTok, the fact that the app was still being used on personal devices owned by members of Congress is a major cause for concern. According to Chinese law, ByteDance (the app’s parent company) and other technology firms are required to grant the government access to any data they hold. This puts American security at risk as legislators can easily be vulnerable to foreign interference.
About half of the Congress members on the report who had TikTok accounts hold or have previously held positions on committees related to military and foreign affairs.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas, as well as “Squad” members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, are among the House members utilizing TikTok. In the Senate, Cory Booker from New Jersey sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, regularly granting him access to classified information.
TikTok collects location information, contacts, and browsing history, among other personal details. These could be used to track US officials and put them at risk of being victimized in foreign-based extortion plots. Voters should note this wildly irresponsible behavior and the fact that it is coming from Democrats and not Republicans.
TikTok poses a major security risk not only to Congress but also to America’s safety as a whole. It is essential that voters hold those irresponsible congressional reps accountable at the ballot box. It is well beyond time to demonstrate that such reckless behavior cannot be tolerated and would serve as a reminder to Congress that protecting national security is much more important that social media reactions. Their actions have consequences and voting with this issue at the top of mind helps ensure that America remains safe and secure.
It seems that the people most responsible for keeping the country safe are continually putting our security at risk. From Hillary Clinton and her use of an unsecured private server to Joe Biden’s disgraceful sale of strategic oil reserves, as well as his classified documents scandal, and now this congressional misstep with TikTok, it seems that our nation has never been quite as vulnerable as it is now.
Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by many of the most heavily trafficked websites in the world.
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