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.


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

(View all)
Avatar
23 weeks 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)
Avatar
23 weeks ago
I’ve never downloaded TikTok, I’m not touching that app. Goodness knows what tracking it’s doing.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 weeks 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)
Avatar
23 weeks 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)
Avatar
23 weeks ago
Intercept crappy videos with even crappier ones?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 weeks 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)

Top Stories

Top Stories: iOS 14 Feature Tour, 'iPhone 12 mini' Rumors, Apple Watch Band Controversy

Saturday September 26, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
Things started to calm down a bit this week following last week's rush of media event, Apple Watch and iPad launches, and the release of iOS 14 and other operating updates. But that doesn't mean there wasn't still a lot of news, from digging deeper into iOS 14 to more iPhone 12 rumors to the uproar over trying to exchange band sizes on the new Apple Watch. On top of all of that, we heard...

'iPhone 12 mini' Name Reappears in Leaked Apple iPhone 12 Case Stickers

Friday September 25, 2020 1:58 am PDT by
Earlier this week a proven leaker claimed that the iPhone 12 lineup would be named "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max," and today the same nomenclature has appeared again in a photo depicting alleged stickers from unreleased Silicone iPhone cases originating from Apple's international distribution center in Ireland. The photo shows three stickers with the...

iOS 14: 'Phoenix 2' Space Shooter Delivers Playable Demo via App Clips

Saturday September 26, 2020 2:08 pm PDT by
One of the new features that arrived in iOS 14 is called App Clips. App Clips is described by Apple to be a "small part of your app" that can be available to users at just the right moment.App Clips focus on finishing one task quickly. An ideal App Clip experience allows users to open and complete a task in seconds. Instead of requiring an App Store download, they can be loaded and run via...

Apple Releases iOS 14.0.1 With Fix for Bug That Resets Default Apps After Rebooting

Thursday September 24, 2020 10:12 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 14.0.1, the first update to the iOS 14 operating system that was released on September 16. Today's update is a bug fix update addressing issues that weren't able to be fixed in the initial iOS 14 launch. The iOS 14.0.1 update is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to Settings > General > Software Update. ...

Upcoming Xbox App Update Will Let Xbox Users Stream Games to iPhone and iPad

Friday September 25, 2020 11:58 am PDT by
Microsoft is testing a new version of its Xbox app that will let Xbox users play games remotely on their iPhones and iPads using streaming functionality. The new feature was rolled out to TestFlight users this morning. The Xbox streaming option is distinct from Microsoft's xCloud service, which it has been clashing with Apple over. xCloud is designed to stream games from Microsoft's servers, ...

Microsoft Internally Worked on a Mac OS X Aqua Inspired Windows XP Theme

Saturday September 26, 2020 10:51 am PDT by
Microsoft tested a Windows XP theme that closely resembled Mac OS X's Aqua GUI, reports The Verge. A recent Windows XP source code leak has revealed various unreleased themes that Microsoft developed in 2000, at a time when Microsoft was in heated competition with Apple regarding desktop operating systems. One of the themes, codenamed "Candy," mirrors the design of Apple's Aqua...

Video Offers Closer Look at Apple Face Mask

Friday September 25, 2020 5:25 am PDT by
YouTube channel Unbox Therapy has today shared a new video giving a closer look at Apple's reusable face masks for corporate and retail employees. Apple's own face mask was designed by the company's Engineering and Industrial Design teams amid the global health crisis for corporate and retail employees, and the boxes include Apple's famous "Designed by Apple in California" text. The...

iPhone 12 May Launch Earlier Than Usual in South Korea

Monday September 28, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
The upcoming iPhone 12 lineup may launch earlier than usual in South Korea, reports The Korea Herald. South Korean telecoms firms speaking to The Korea Herald have said that the iPhone 12 lineup will launch ahead of its usual schedule. Normally, the release of new iPhones in South Korea comes about one month after launch in the United States. Last year, the iPhone 11 arrived in South Korea ...

New Version of Microsoft Office Coming Next Year That Won't Require a Subscription

Thursday September 24, 2020 1:53 am PDT by
Microsoft will next year offer a new perpetual release of Microsoft Office for Mac and Windows that doesn't require a subscription to use, according to the software giant (via Windows Central). "Microsoft Office will also see a new perpetual release for both Windows and Mac, in the second half of 2021," said Microsoft in a blog post announcing the next version of its Exchange server,...

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...