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TikTok users warned ‘to change their crypto wallets now’

By Daniela Ešnerová

08:46, 20 July 2022

A phone display with Tik Tok app opened.
Boss of the US federal agency called Tik Tok ‘unacceptable national security.’ – Photo: ShutterStock

Cryptocurrency users warned their peers, who use Tik Tok, to change their crypto wallets “immediately” after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an alert over the social media giant's data collection practices.

The FCC's commissioner Brendan Carr wrote a letter to CEOs of Apple (AAPL) and Google asking them to remove the Chinese social media platform from their app stores, calling Tik Tok “an unacceptable national threat.” 

In his letter, Carr listed different types of data that the Chinese social app collects.

Redditors then warned this data could be used to access cryptocurrency such as BTC or ETH which owners have stored on their digital wallets if they keep their wallet's seed password in a form of note, clipboard or a screenshot.

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“TikTok collects everything from search and browsing histories to keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including faceprints—which researchers have said might be used in unrelated facial recognition technology—and voiceprints. 

It collects location data as well as draft messages and metadata, plus it has collected the text, images, and videos that are stored on a device’s clipboard,” he wrote.

Reacting to Carr's letter, several posters took to Reddit to flag these concerns to a community of cryptocurrency users.

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Seeds of doubt 

“If you use TikTok and crypto I recommend you change all your wallets immediately,” a Reddit poster, writing under the name KirbyAteMyCoins, wrote in a post, which gathered a lot of 1,000 comments in a day.

While it would be impossible for one app to access data from another app albeit on the same phone, some debaters pointed out that the vulnerability could come from people copying their wallet's seed phrase to clipboard or taking a screenshot of it.

A seed phrase is a combination of 12 randomly selected words, which functions as a recovery password.

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Laminate your keys then bury it

Posters then went on to discuss examples of best practice when it comes to security, with one, writing under the name, VitriolicDiatribe, telling users to make sure their digital assets are safe. 

“You should keep your crypto keys on an entirely separate device to what you use for everything else. Ideally one that doesn't connect to the Internet. 
If you can't get a hardware wallet for whatever reason then either keep them on an encrypted USB drive or keep them on paper and hide them," he said.
According to VitriolicDiatribe it is easy to convert crypto keys into a QR code.


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Spread 6.00

"Laminate it then bury it or hide it in your walls. Treat it like cash.”

Crypto privacy an ongoing issue

According to the user, Tik Tok's Chinese background is cause for concern and crypto users have had enough warnings over privacy issues previously. 

“I can't believe we are still having these discussions about private keys after what's happened in the past. 
“We've known since the MtGox fiasco in 2014 the importance of owning your keys and keeping them secret, yet here we are.”

This is not the first time Tik Tok has been embroiled in a privacy controversy. In 2021, Tik Tok came under US lawmakers' scrutiny for its collection of users' biometric data. 

Trump trials

In 2020, the then-US president Donald Trump signed an executive order saying that his administration was considering banning the app calling its data collection practices a threat.

Shortly after Trump's move TikTok surpassed one billion users worldwide. 

In his letter from June 2022, the FCC's Barr echoed Trump's sentiment.

“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data.”

Most Tik Tok users under 34

The app is widely popular among younger people. estimates that there are 80 million Tik Tok monthly users in the USA, with 80% of users being under 34 years old, according to data from a social media advertising agency Wallaroo Media. 

Separate research from a crypto payment service Triple A showed that the majority of US cryptocurrency owners are in the 18-44 age group - as this cohort makes up of 58% US cryptocurrency owners.

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