IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

TikTok vulnerability exposed private user data

Security researchers have discovered that the app's 'Find Friends' feature allows hackers to access user details

Security researchers have discovered a flaw in TikTok that, if exploited, could expose users’ private data and enable an attacker to steal data on users’ contacts too.

According to Check Point Research, whose researchers discovered the flaw, if left unpatched, the vulnerability would have enabled an attacker to access a user’s phone number, TikTok nickname, profile and avatar pictures, unique user IDs, as well as certain profile settings, such as whether a user is a follower or if a user’s profile is hidden.

Researchers discovered the vulnerability in the TikTok app’s 'Find Friends' feature. This uses contacts syncing, which allows users to sync their contacts on their phone to easily find people they may know on TikTok. This makes it possible to connect users’ profile details to their phone numbers.

With those phone numbers and profile details, attackers could potentially access further information related to users, obtained outside of TikTok, such as searching for other accounts or data available.

Researchers described the process of exploiting the flaw. Each time a user launches the TikTok app, it performs a process of device registration to make sure users aren’t switching between devices.

Related Resource

How LogPoint uses MITRE ATT&CK

Stronger cyber security with MITRE ATT&CK

How to improve your cyber security with MITRE ATT&CK - A LogPoint whitepaperDownload now

During the SMS login process from a mobile device, TikTok servers validate the data by generating a token and session cookies. Researchers found the session cookies and token values expire after 60 days, meaning they could use the same cookies to log in for weeks.

Lastly, researchers found that a threat actor can successfully manipulate the sign-in process by bypassing TikTok’s HTTP Message signing, thereby automating the process of uploading and syncing contacts at scale, eventually building a database of users and their connected phone numbers for the threat actor to target.

Check Point Research responsibly disclosed its findings to ByteDance, TikTok’s maker, and the company deployed an updated version of the app to users.

Oded Vanunu, head of products vulnerabilities research at Check Point, said the primary motivation of the research was to explore the privacy of TikTok.

“We were curious to see if the TikTok platform could be used to gain access to private user data. We were able to bypass multiple protection mechanisms of TikTok, that led to privacy violations,” he said.

With the vulnerability enabling a hacker to build a database of user details and their respective phone numbers, they would have access to sensitive information and could perform a range of malicious activities, such as spear phishing or other criminal actions.

“Our message to TikTok users is to share the bare minimum, when it comes to your personal data, and to update your phone’s operating system and applications to the latest versions,” Vanunu said.

Featured Resources

Join the 90% of enterprises accelerating to the cloud

Business transformation through digital modernisation

Free Download

Delivering on demand: Momentum builds toward flexible IT

A modern digital workplace strategy

Free download

Modernise the workforce experience

Actionable insights and an optimised experience for both IT and end users

Free Download

The digital workplace roadmap

A leader's guide to strategy and success

Free Download

Recommended

Review calls for urgent new laws over use of biometric technology
Policy & legislation

Review calls for urgent new laws over use of biometric technology

30 Jun 2022
Best free malware removal tools 2022
Security

Best free malware removal tools 2022

22 Jun 2022
A guide to cyber security certification and training
Careers & training

A guide to cyber security certification and training

16 Jun 2022
What is shoulder surfing?
social engineering

What is shoulder surfing?

10 Jun 2022

Most Popular

Raspberry Pi launches next-gen Pico W microcontroller with networking support
Hardware

Raspberry Pi launches next-gen Pico W microcontroller with networking support

1 Jul 2022
Xerox CEO John Visentin dies unexpectedly aged 59
Careers & training

Xerox CEO John Visentin dies unexpectedly aged 59

30 Jun 2022
Former Uber security chief to face fraud charges over hack coverup
data breaches

Former Uber security chief to face fraud charges over hack coverup

29 Jun 2022