NCSC probes TikTok amid reports of imminent ban of government devices

Security minister confirms intelligence agency is investigating the video app

The National Cyber Security Centre is investigating possible risks associated with use of the TikTok amid reports that use of the video app will be banned from government devices.

The security minister Tom Tugendhat has revealed that he has asked the GCHQ-based cyber intelligence unit to conduct a probe of the Chinese-owned app. The assessment takes place following steps taken by various countries – including the US and Canada – to prohibit the use of TikTok on government-issued phones.

Following reports that a similar move is planned in the UK, prime minister Rishi Sunak told ITV News earlier this week that the government is “looking at what our allies are doing” and what take any steps required to protect the integrity and security of sensitive information”.

Speaking to Sky News, Tugendhat confirmed the ongoing investigation being undertaken by the NCSC.

“Understanding exactly what the challenges that these apps pose, what they are asking for and how they’re reaching into our lives is incredibly important,” he said.

A number of the security minister’s parliamentary colleagues – including former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and current Foreign Affairs Committee head Alicia Kearns – have called in recent months for the use of TikTok on government devices to be entirely banned.

Duncan Smith and Tugendhat were both among a group of MPs and peers that last year undertook a successful campaign to close down a TikTok account set up by the UK parliament.

The video-sharing app and website is owned by Beijing-headquartered firm ByteDanc and the parliamentarians claimed that “TikTok data is routinely transferred to China”, in a letter written to the speakers of the Houses of Commons and Lords.

“Data security risks associated with the app are the considerable,” the group wrote. “Under the 2017 Intelligence Security Law of the PRC (People’s Republic of China), Chinese companies are required to yield data to the PRC upon request, and may not reveal that they have done so when asked.”

TikTok has repeatedly denied that it has ever given data to the Chinese government or would ever do so.

“Our data is held in the US and Singapore, we are opening and expanding new datacentres in Europe this year and we comply with robust data laws in these jurisdictions, such as GDPR,” a spokesperson said in response to recent criticism.

Sam Trendall

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