TikTok has become a global sensation. The viral short video app has been downloaded over 3 billion times worldwide and OVER 1 billion people use it every month. With those kinds of numbers, it‘s no wonder some parents are worried about how safe TikTok is for their kids. You may even be tempted to hack into your child‘s TikTok yourself just to see what they‘re up to.
While hacking someone‘s account without their permission is unethical and illegal, as a concerned parent I understand the instinct to want to protect your child online. In this post, I‘ll walk you through the most common TikTok hacking techniques – not to encourage hacking, but to help you better safeguard your family against cyber threats.
Why Learn How Hackers Might Target TikTok Accounts
Before we dive in, let me explain why knowledge of common hacking methods is so valuable:
- It allows you to have informed conversations about online safety. You can explain specific risks to your kids.
- You can take proactive steps to strengthen security. If you know how hackers might gain access, you can prevent it.
- You can better detect signs of a compromised account. Watch for suspicious activity indicative of hacking.
- If hacked, you can more quickly address the breach. Understanding the potential access points makes resolution faster.
So while we absolutely don‘t endorse hacking, insight into the tools and techniques used by bad actors allows everyday users like you and me to better protect our online security and privacy. Now let‘s explore some common ways TikTok accounts get hacked.
Spyware and Keyloggers
One sneaky way hackers gain access to TikTok accounts is by installing malicious software called spyware or keyloggers on a device. For example, a shady app downloaded outside the official app store could contain one of these nasties.
Once installed, the spyware records anything typed on the device, including social media usernames and passwords. It may also activate features like the camera and microphone to spy on users.
A 2022 Norton report found that 1 in 10 people have encountered mobile spyware. Once credentials are captured, hackers have free rein to access your TikTok and other connected accounts.
To avoid this threat:
- Only download apps from official stores like the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Their review process weeds out lots of malware.
- Don‘t sideload apps or install software from unknown third-party sources. That‘s asking for trouble!
- Install reputable anti-virus software on all of your mobile devices and computers and keep it updated. This can detect and disable many spyware programs.
Another common ploy is phishing scams aimed at tricking users into handing over their login credentials. These often take the form of fake emails or text messages claiming there is some urgent issue with your TikTok account.
They‘ll include a link for you to "log in to verify your account". But the site it sends you to looks exactly like the real TikTok, only it‘s controlled by the scammers! Any login details entered get sent right to the hackers.
According to TikTok, its platforms had no reported breaches due to phishing in 2022. However, individuals fall for phishing scams all the time. Follow these tips to avoid being fooled:
- TikTok will NEVER email or text you asking for your password or account information. Any message requesting this is a scam.
- Don‘t click on links in unsolicited emails and texts. Type the URL directly into your browser instead.
- Verify the sender‘s address. Phishing emails will show a misleading sender name but have a suspicious reply-to address.
- Look for spelling errors and low-quality images. These are telltale signs of phishing attempts. Legitimate emails and sites don‘t contain such mistakes.
Guessing Weak Passwords
You‘d be shocked by how many people have passwords like "password123" or "123456". Such simple passwords take hackers just minutes to crack using brute force tools that run through millions of common options.
To prevent unauthorized access, your passwords need to be strong and unique for every account:
- Use at least 8 characters mixing upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. The longer the better!
- Avoid dictionary words and personal info someone could easily guess, like your pet‘s name.
- Consider using a password manager app to generate and store secure random passwords for each of your accounts. This is the easiest way to keep them all protected.
- Turn on two-factor authentication for an added layer of security. This requires a one-time code from your phone any time someone logs in from a new device.
Public WiFi Snooping
That public WiFi at the coffee shop seems convenient, but be warned: it comes with risks. Hackers can position themselves on the same open network to intercept the data you‘re transmitting and steal credentials or install malware.
In 2022, Kaspersky uncovered over 7,500 WiFi hotspots used as part of hacking schemes. Here‘s how to access TikTok more safely:
- Avoid accessing any accounts on open WiFi networks. Wait until you‘re on a password-protected home or work connection.
- When forced to use public WiFi, enable your phone‘s hotspot instead. This creates a private network just for your devices to connect through.
- Use a reputable Virtual Private Network (VPN) app when connecting to public networks. This encrypts your web traffic to prevent prying eyes.
- Turn off auto-connect for public WiFi hotspots so your device doesn‘t join them without asking. Manually connecting gives you a chance to stop and think first.
Similar to phishing, hackers will also send out TikTok-themed links via email and social media designed to infect devices with malware if clicked. This malicious software can do everything from show intrusive ads to stealing your personal data.
According to TikTok, clicks on malware links aimed at its users doubled from 2020 to 2021. Protect yourself with these tips:
- Don‘t open links from unknown or unverified sources. These have the highest malware risk.
- Before clicking, hover over the link to see the full URL it will send you to. If it looks suspicious, delete it.
- Only download apps and software from official trusted sources like app stores. Third-party sites are ripe with malware.
- Use anti-malware software on all your devices to catch and remove infections before they cause harm. Malwarebytes and HitmanPro are two good options.
Unsecured API Access
TikTok actually offers developers API access to create features like automatically posting or cross-promoting TikTok videos on other platforms. However, hackers can potentially exploit vulnerabilities in this API to breach accounts.
Back in 2020, security researchers discovered flaws that allowed them to brute force access tokens and take over associated accounts. TikTok quickly patched the bugs, but it‘s a good reminder why strong unique passwords are so important. A 2022 study by Tenable found APIs to be one of the most common attack vectors.
As a user, make sure to:
- Use randomly generated passwords unique for every account, especially high-risk ones like TikTok. Password reuse can lead to widespread account breaches.
- Enable two-factor authentication wherever possible. This requires verifying with an additional device like your phone when logging in.
- Routinely check third-party app permissions and revoke access to any unknown or unused apps. This minimizes your API exposure.
Outdated Software Vulnerabilities
Like any software platform, bugs and flaws in TikTok‘s code can create openings for hackers to exploit. When big vulnerabilities are discovered, TikTok issues app updates to address them.
But if users don‘t install these updates promptly, they remain at risk. Just last August, TikTok had to patch an actively exploited flaw that allowed code execution via its Android app.
Here are some key software security practices:
- Turn on automatic updates for apps like TikTok whenever possible. This ensures you get the latest protections.
- Periodically check for updates yourself as well. Don‘t ignore update reminders or prompts.
- Only use authentic copies of software from official sources. Pirated or modified apps elevate your risk.
- Uninstall unused apps, especially any abandoned by their developers. These often go unpatched allowing vulnerabilities to persist.
Sometimes hackers don‘t need fancy technical tricks. They can simply manipulate users into voluntarily handing over their credentials or personal information, through what‘s known as social engineering.
This is often accomplished by impersonating someone trusted either in-person or online and asking for sensitive data under the guise of tech support, account recovery, or security verification. If users believe the act, they may unwittingly provide access.
In 2022, TikTok scammers raked in over $1 million using social engineering tactics through avenues like TikTok LIVE. Here are some ways to avoid being fooled:
- Don‘t trust unsolicited contacts claiming to be from TikTok. Verify identities over official channels before responding.
- Recognize common support scams. TikTok will never contact you asking for personal data or access to your account.
- Be skeptical of pleas for urgent help. Scammers try to make requests seem time sensitive so you act before thinking.
- Never provide usernames, passwords, security codes or other access information to ANYONE contacting you out of the blue. Real help desks don‘t operate this way.
Securing Your TikTok Account
While hacking tactics are constantly evolving, you can take steps to significantly reduce your risks:
- Use strong uniquely generated passwords for every account and a password manager to store them securely.
- Turn on two-factor authentication and routinely check login activity for unfamiliar sessions.
- Avoid sideloading apps and only install from official stores like Apple‘s App Store and Google Play Store.
- Be extra cautious on public WiFi and consider using a VPN for added encryption.
- Keep TikTok and all apps updated and proactively revoke unused third-party app permissions.
- Watch for telltale signs of phishing like urgent requests for personal information or login credentials.
- Leverage security tools like anti-malware software and firewalls to protect devices.
If you take these precautions, your TikTok account and data will be far more secure from compromise. You‘ll also have peace of mind knowing your child‘s account is safer too.
For more tips to enhance your family‘s online safety and security, check out this guide to parental controls or consider a premium VPN like ExpressVPN. Stay vigilant, and you can comfortably enjoy all that TikTok has to offer.