The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees considerable risks in using the short video app TikTok. “If you look at the amount of data, metadata and content on TikTok on the one hand, and if you then also look at the possibilities for government agencies to influence such companies, then it can only give you a headache. And I have it," said Sinan Selen, Vice President of the domestic secret service on Thursday in Berlin at the sidelines of an event on espionage, sabotage and cyber risks for the German economy.
"We're not clear enough on the extent of what government agencies can access, especially in China -- I think that's the crux of the matter," he added. Companies like TikTok are unable to escape such influence. If you keep that in mind, you come to the conclusion that security issues need to be given more emphasis.
A ban on the service, which is particularly popular with young people, is currently being discussed in the USA. Federal government employees are not allowed to use the app on their work cell phones. TikTok has more than a billion users worldwide. TikTok is under increasing pressure because the platform belongs to the Bytedance group from China.
According to constitutional protection officers and other experts, German companies and research institutes must become more cautious and suspicious because of the growing risks of espionage – especially from Russia and China. "Authoritarian regimes use liberal spaces to spread their influence," Selen warned at the same meeting of his agency. The theme of the event was “A world in turmoil – challenges for our supply chains, research
Unlike in the past, when mutual dependencies were seen as a conflict-inhibiting factor, they are now increasingly being used as a weapon. In addition to classic espionage, the methods used by these regimes also included the sending of researchers on behalf of the state, the recruitment of German scientists and cyber attack campaigns, explained Selen. Some of the hardest-hit industries included aerospace, biotechnology, industrial robotics, communications, and engineering, among others.
In order to better protect Germany as a business location, it is important that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the companies internally exchange information on current dangers in a spirit of trust. "There is little point in keeping to oneself threat scenarios that they have already been confronted with."
Among the particularly vulnerable elements of the so-called critical infrastructure are undersea cables for communication, said Johannes Abresch from corporate security at Deutsche Post DHL Group. In addition to the risk of data theft by intelligence services, sabotage is also a major danger here, since damage to these cables can cause immense economic damage with relatively little effort.