Security Researchers Take Advantage of Insecure HTTP to Display Fake Videos on TikTok

An investigation by Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk has revealed that backwards-compatible support for HTTP in iOS and Android is allowing data from popular apps such as TikTok to be intercepted and altered.

tiktok logo
While most apps have made the transition to HTTPS, the research discovered that TikTok on iOS and Android still uses unencrypted HTTP to download media content. Consequently, TikTok inherits all of the known and well-documented HTTP vulnerabilities.

Apple introduced App Transport Security in iOS 9, requiring all HTTP connections to use encrypted HTTPS. Google similarly changed the default network security configuration in Android Pie to block all plaintext HTTP traffic. HTTP vulnerabilities still exist, however, since Apple and Google continue provide a way for developers to opt-out of HTTPS for backwards-compatibility.


The investigation proved that it is possible to successfully intercept TikTok traffic and fool the app to show fake videos as if they were published by popular and verified accounts. Any router between the TikTok app and TikTok's servers can easily expose a user's watch history, and change profile photos and videos. While only users connected to the router will see the malicious content, the research suggests that if a popular DNS server was hacked to include a corrupt DNS record, media data could be changed on a large scale.

Top Rated Comments

patent10021 Avatar
52 months ago
The Leslie Nielsen of security researchers.

The Chinese apps have insecure HTTP because the government needs back-doors. I know first hand.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Puppuccino Avatar
52 months ago
I’ve never downloaded TikTok, I’m not touching that app. Goodness knows what tracking it’s doing.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
phenste Avatar
52 months ago
Oops.
Having seen Vine come and go in what felt like an instant (while I was in high school), the fact that TikTok isn’t dead yet is a MARVEL to me. Especially with how clearly unsafe it is, and how clearly stupid all the teenage influencers on it are.

Vine was the genesis of Jake/Logan Paul, and the most we got out of that was a horribly-poor-taste YouTube video with a hanged corpse in the icon, and Post Malone’s house getting accidentally doxxed. (Yes, Jake Paul is stupid enough to accidentally dox someone.)

With TikTok, I feel like we could get the Chinese government somehow getting into the accounts of EVERY influencer, and every person that follows these influencers, and just…****ing something up majorly. I don’t know what, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few months, it’s that you never know what’s around the corner.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
lkrupp Avatar
52 months ago

Here's the real problem. I recently submitted an app and when you want to opt-out, you have to give a very good reason. Privacy-first Apple should have ended backwards-compatibility years ago. For any serious developer, there is no good reason not to use HTTPS, simple SSL certificates (which are fine for encryption) have always been cheap and now they're even free with Let's Encrypt.
There’s no good reason not to use HTTPS just like there’s no good reason to use Flash... but developers and users DO continue to use them and scream bloody murder when things no longer work. macOS still supports Flash even though it’s a pos. And when something doesn’t work on their Apple gear it’s automatically Apple’s fault no matter what. Just look at all the rage at the 32/64 bit change and APFS. If Apple were to stop supporting HTTP many websites would go dead on the platform. It’s a catch-22.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mi7chy Avatar
52 months ago
Intercept crappy videos with even crappier ones?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AlexGraphicD Avatar
52 months ago
LMAO How can people be so clueless and download these kind of spyware in the first place? How can a Chinese social media app become so popular out of the confined borders of that communist regime in this day and age is beyond ridiculous.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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