The battle over Kevin McCarthy’s election as speaker of the House last month postponed regular business. Several proposed bills are concessions to conservative hardliners who only agreed to back the California Republican if he met their demands. Though their bills will get votes in the House, they have little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, let alone reach Joe Biden’s desk.
As nice as it would be to override the ill-named Inflation Reduction Act or ban sitting members of Congress from trading or even owning stocks, divided lawmakers should at least agree that bolstering America’s cyber-defenses should be a high priority.
In 2022, the cyber threat landscape experienced a dramatic increase in ransomware and other malicious attacks, with many of them believed to be backed by state actors. The war in Ukraine is often cited as one of the most prominent examples of these incidents, showing just how widespread and destructive these threats can be.
In 2023, ransomware attacks have already proven a grave danger to the hospital and financial services industries. Though overall ransomware attacks on businesses decreased by 61 percent in 2022, new and sophisticated malware variants are emerging each week, creating a severe threat to national security.
Although people most often associate data security with the large-scale attacks against large corporations and governments that make headlines, individuals are becoming even more vulnerable to malicious new ransomware strains and the growing prevalence of adware.
Given these facts, it is now essential for Congress to take immediate action to safeguard American cybersecurity and prevent these malicious assaults from going unchecked. So it is shocking to learn that a recent investigation by States Newsroom revealed that 32 members of Congress—31 Democrats and one independent—were still using TikTok as of early January. This is despite the fact that they are regularly briefed about the risks associated with foreign powers targeting sensitive information.
Given the potential security risks posed by TikTok, the use of the app on personal devices owned by members of Congress is a cause for concern. In China, ByteDance (the app’s parent company) and other tech firms are required to comply with laws granting the government access to any data they hold. This could put American security at risk as legislators may become vulnerable to interference from outside sources.
At the start of 2021, approximately 50 percent of Congress members who had TikTok accounts held or had held positions on committees related to military and foreign affairs. U.S. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) are among the notable members still using TikTok. Another TikToker, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, granting him access to sensitive and classified information.
The extensive information collected by TikTok, which includes location information, contacts, and browsing history, could be used to track U.S. officials and put them at risk of being targeted in extortion plots from foreign adversaries. Voters should be aware that this irresponsible behavior and the potential for a serious breach of American cybersecurity is mainly coming from Democrats.
TikTok use could pose a major security risk not only to Congress but also to our nation’s safety as a whole. It is essential that we take these matters seriously, and make sure all those responsible are held accountable at the ballot box. Doing so will demonstrate that such reckless behavior will not be tolerated and will serve as an important reminder to Congress that protecting our national security is more important than social media likes.
It seems the people who are supposed to be the “adults in the room” are continually putting America’s security at risk. From Hillary Clinton’s use of an unsecured private server to Joe Biden’s sale of strategic oil reserves, as well as the current probe into his handling of classified documents, and now this misstep with TikTok—it appears that our nation has never been so vulnerable as it is now.