The one thing my students all invariably know about China is that you cant use Facebook there, or YouTube or Google. For at least a decade, China has maintained strict control over the internet and aggressively blocked foreign tech platforms within its borders.
So when President Trump issued two executive orders Thursday night that all but ban two Chinese social media networks the video app TikTok and the messaging app WeChat from operating in the United States, citing national security concerns, the decision seemed straight out of Chinas own playbook.
The executive orders and Microsofts interest in buying TikToks American business echo what happened in 2017, when Chinas cybersecurity law went into effect and required foreign companies to store data about Chinese customers within China. Some American companies, including Amazon, had to sell the hardware components of their cloud computing services in China to Chinese companies in order to continue operating there.
The United States governments approach to cybersecurity is now looking more and more like Chinas. If that meant only limiting access to humorous video apps then it would be merely unfortunate. But its a deeply misguided and unproductive way to try to secure data and computer networks one that relies on the profoundly untrue assumption that data stored within a countrys own borders is more secure than data stored in other places.
No one knows better than the United States government that the data kept within its borders is highly vulnerable to Chinese cyberespionage. In 2015, Chinese hackers stole personal information belonging to more than 21 million people from the federal governments Office of Personnel Management. In 2017, members of the Chinese military managed to steal records belonging to 145 million Americans from the U.S. credit bureau Equifax, according to charges filed by the Department of Justice earlier this year.
Any number of lessons could be drawn from these incidents, including the importance of vetting outside vendors and the need to carefully monitor outbound data. But deciding that information is more secure because it is collected and stored by American companies is precisely the wrong conclusion.
In January, the Department of Defense announced that military personnel would be required to remove TikTok from their government-issued smartphones. Even absent any evidence that ByteDance was sharing data with the Chinese government, that decision made sense for smartphones that were being used by military officers given the sensitive nature of their work. But for the government to expand that ban to the phones of civilians in the United States, it needs to show some clearer indication that the app poses a real risk to its users. Otherwise, this just looks like an anti-competitive decision made to disadvantage a Chinese tech firm in the name of strengthening security.
Its not clear whether the Trump administration regards either TikToks or WeChats data, or their parent companies, as particularly pernicious or dangerous, but it has not released any evidence that these companies are distributing compromised software to their users via the apps or sharing any data about their American customers with the Chinese government.
But make no mistake: the presidents executive orders are not about cybersecurity they are a retaliatory jab in the ongoing tensions between China and the United States. In fact, the bans greatest impact will probably not be on the bottom lines of TikTok and WeChats parent companies, but instead on promoting a fundamentally Chinese view of internet security.
For years, the American government has championed the idea of an open and global internet, in which the same online content and services are available worldwide, regardless of where users live. Tech companies could operate internationally, moving data freely between their data centers across the globe. But if the government now believes that the only safe data and computer networks are within its own borders as the animus toward TikTok and WeChat suggests then, like China, the United States fundamentally does not believe in a global internet. Thats a terrible mistake for a country whose tech industry depends heavily on companies that do business all over the world. Its also a mistake from a security perspective.
To protect Americans data, the federal government needs to set clearer and more rigorous standards for how that data is protected and what the consequences are for failing to meet those standards. By pretending that restricting the use of TikTok and WeChat could possibly serve the same or even a similar purpose, the government is failing to engage with the hard questions around liability for cybersecurity breaches. Instead, it is buying into Chinas belief that the only way to secure the internet is to keep international influences and services offline.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. Wed like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And heres our email: email@example.com.
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.
- Network Security: Don't Trust And Verify - IT Jungle - October 23rd, 2020
- Akamai Reveals State of Internet: Threats to Retailers - Solutions Review - October 23rd, 2020
- Verisign Reports Third Quarter 2020 Results | Business | The Daily News - Galveston County Daily News - October 23rd, 2020
- Global Internet Security Software Market Analysis, Drivers, Restraints, Opportunities, Threats, Trends, Applications, And Growth Forecast To (2026). -... - October 23rd, 2020
- Nokia Threat Intelligence Report warns of rising cyberattacks on internet-connected devices - GlobeNewswire - October 23rd, 2020
- Cybersecurity and a potential Biden White House: Past tech priorities resurrected - SC Magazine - October 23rd, 2020
- Virgin Media has an important new feature, but switching it on will cost you - Express - October 23rd, 2020
- WISeKey and OpSec Security Partnership Establishes Trust Between Brands and their Customers through Improved Customer Engagement - GlobeNewswire - October 23rd, 2020
- Internet Of Things Iot Security Market Economic Perspective And Forecast To 2027 - PRnews Leader - October 23rd, 2020
- Why cybercriminals have 'Gone Vishing' during the COVID-19 Pandemic - Bdaily - October 23rd, 2020
- Insights on the Digital Security Control Global Market to 2027 - Strategic Recommendations for New Entrants - GlobeNewswire - October 17th, 2020
- More than 25% of Cypriots concerned about internet security - Cyprus Mail - October 17th, 2020
- 5 things you can do to secure your home office without hiring an expert - We Live Security - October 17th, 2020
- Beyond Speed and Reliability: Security Is a New Differentiator - Security Boulevard - October 17th, 2020
- Nationwide and Generali Global Assistance Partner to Enhance Identity Theft Protection - Insurance News Net - October 17th, 2020
- Global Internet of Things (IoT) Security Product Market 2020 Impact of COVID-19, Future Growth Analysis and Challenges | Cisco Systems, Inc, IBM... - October 17th, 2020
- Is BlackBerry (TSX:BB) Stock a Buy on the Latest News? - The Motley Fool Canada - October 17th, 2020
- Global Internet of Things or IoT Security Market to Reach $22 Billion+ Valuation by 2027, Largely Due to Blockchain Adoption - Crowdfund Insider - October 17th, 2020
- Internet Security Market with COVID-19 Recovery Analysis 2020 | Rapid Adoption of BYOD Policy to Boost Market Growth | Technavio - Business Wire - October 8th, 2020
- Tenable and the CIS Enter Partnership to Bolster Cyber Hygiene - AiThority - October 8th, 2020
- How to Build Smart Banks that Connect Customers with Modern DX - AiThority - October 8th, 2020
- #NCSAM: Is Connected Ever Going to be Protected? - Infosecurity Magazine - October 8th, 2020
- Cyber Security Awareness Month is here! - We Live Security - October 2nd, 2020
- Internet security Market Potential Growth, Size, Share, Demand and Analysis of Key Players Research Forecasts to 2027 - The Daily Chronicle - October 2nd, 2020
- Latest Report on Global Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market Analysis, Growth, Opportunity and Regional Insights 2026 - The Daily Chronicle - October 2nd, 2020
- Remarks by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, at Security Council meeting on universal connectivity & access to digital technology in... - October 2nd, 2020
- Lessons learned from firsthand experience on how to avoid internet fraud and other forms of cyberattacks (opinion) - Inside Higher Ed - October 2nd, 2020
- COVID-19 Update: Global Internet Security Audit Market is Expected to Grow at a Healthy CAGR with Top players: Symantec, Intel Security, IBM, Cisco,... - October 2nd, 2020
- Internet Security Market 2020: Potential growth, attractive valuation make it is a long-term investment | Know the COVID19 Impact | Top Players: HPE,... - September 30th, 2020
- The Top Internet of Things (IoT) Authentication Methods and Options - Security Boulevard - September 30th, 2020
- How Trusted Internet Connections Is Focusing Telework with TIC 3.0 - FedTech Magazine - September 30th, 2020
- Is your business looking for an extra layer of security - here's why a VPN may be the answer - TechRadar - September 30th, 2020
- A business connected to the cloud needs cloud-ready security, connectivity - Techgoondu - September 30th, 2020
- The 6 key races you haven't heard of that may help decide how we secure our elections - POLITICO - September 30th, 2020
- Get In Depth Analysis Of How Covid-19 Is Impacting The Internet Security Software Market - Unica News - September 30th, 2020
- Study finds over 4-in-10 WFH employees in SEA find it hard to switch-off after work - Backend News - September 30th, 2020
- 5 Ways to Secure Your Home Network - The Good Men Project - September 29th, 2020
- How To Make Peace With Your Internet Passwords - Forbes - September 29th, 2020
- Five Types of Cyber Security for Organizational Safety - Analytics Insight - September 29th, 2020
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market Competitive Research and Precise Outlook 2020 to 2027 - The Daily Chronicle - September 29th, 2020
- IT Security Spending Market Analysis highlights the Impact of covid-19 (2020-2026) | Check Point Software Technologies, Cisco Systems, EMC, Fortinet,... - September 29th, 2020
- Schrdingers Web offers a sneak peek at the quantum internet - Science News - September 29th, 2020
- Counter-Terrorism: Raiders Of The Lost Cache - Strategy Page - September 29th, 2020
- Trending 2020: Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market Analysis, Size, Trends and Forecast to 2025| Cisco Systems, Intel Corporation, IBM Corporation... - September 29th, 2020
- IoT coffee machine hacked to demand ransom - IT PRO - September 29th, 2020
- Show me who bans TikTok and I'll show you your (future) allies | TheHill - The Hill - September 27th, 2020
- Lokibot keylogger infections are growing across the internet - Komando - September 27th, 2020
- Evasive Malware Threats on the Rise Despite Decline in Overall Attacks - Infosecurity Magazine - September 27th, 2020
- Internet of Things Security Market size, development, key opportunity, application and forecast to 2026 | Check Point Security Software Technologies,... - September 27th, 2020
- Fears mount over Russian and Chinese hackers targeting the 2020 U.S. presidential election - CNBC - September 27th, 2020
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security market to Witness Increase in Revenues by 2016-2028 - Crypto Daily - September 27th, 2020
- How to leave no trace on the internet when using a VPN? - Techiexpert.com - TechiExpert.com - September 27th, 2020
- 2020 Demand In Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market By Key Types, Regions, Countries, Top Companies Competition, Consumers, Import-Export Forecast... - September 27th, 2020
- How the Pandemic Pushed a Generation of Americans to Discover the Perks (and Risks) of Online Banking - NextAdvisor - September 27th, 2020
- IT Security-as-a-Service Market 2020 By Manufacturers, Regions, Type And Application, Forecast To 2025| Blue Coat, Cisco, IBM, Intel Security,... - September 27th, 2020
- APT groups actively target Linux-based workstations and servers - Backend News - September 27th, 2020
- Critical steps for securing cyberspace - Microsoft on the Issues - Microsoft - September 27th, 2020
- Proven ways to stay ahead of configuration drift - ITProPortal - September 27th, 2020
- Global Embedded Security For Internet Of Things Market 2020 Trends Analysis and (COVID-19) Effect Analysis | Key Players Market With COVID-19 Impact... - September 27th, 2020
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security Technology Market 2020: Potential growth, attractive valuation make it is a long-term investment | Know the COVID19... - September 27th, 2020
- REMOTE WORKING: PROGRESS AND PERILS - Forbes Africa - September 27th, 2020
- Avoid scam 'DMV' websites | Sedona.Biz - The Internet Voice of Sedona and The Verde Valley - Sedona.biz - September 27th, 2020
- Get In Depth Analysis Of How Covid-19 Is Impacting The Internet Security Software Market - The Daily Chronicle - September 12th, 2020
- Better late than never: Zoom boosts security with 2FA - Verdict - September 12th, 2020
- Show and Tell: The Gryphon Tower Mesh Wi-Fi Security Router - Grit Daily - September 12th, 2020
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market 2020 Trends, Market Share, Industry Size, Opportunities, Drivers, Outlook, Analysis And Forecast To 2028 -... - September 12th, 2020
- Ensuring cyber awareness in the healthcare sector - Help Net Security - September 12th, 2020
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market Size, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies and Forecast by 2026 - The Daily Chronicle - September 12th, 2020
- Internet of Things Security Market, Share, Growth, Trends And Forecast To 2027: Dataintelo - Scientect - September 12th, 2020
- Kaspersky: 37% of internet users in SEA think they won't be targeted by cybercriminals - SoyaCincau.com - September 12th, 2020
- TikTok and WeChat may raise security concerns, but Trump's knee-jerk reaction isn't the way to deal with them - NewsChannel 3-12 - KEYT - September 12th, 2020
- Helping companies prioritize their cybersecurity investments - MIT News - September 6th, 2020
- Rapid7 NICER - starting a conversation on internet security | Company Report - FinTech Magazine - The FinTech & InsurTech Platform - September 6th, 2020
- Kansans are getting letters saying they applied for unemployment. The problem? Some never did. - Pittsburg Morning Sun - September 6th, 2020
- Embedded Security For Internet Of Things Market 2025 Opportunities, Applications, Drivers, Limitations, Companies, Countries, & Forecast - Express... - September 6th, 2020
- Why should you use a VPN on your iPhone and Mac? - Cult of Mac - September 6th, 2020
- 'No longer safe in their classroom:' NHCS remote-learning session hacked, sexualized profanity used - Port City Daily - September 6th, 2020
- How Romania is Solving Technology and Poverty Disparities - Borgen Project - September 6th, 2020
- How government is delivering better election security - GCN.com - September 6th, 2020
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market Report: Regional Data Analysis By Production, Revenue, Price And Gross Margin - Kewaskum Statesman News... - September 6th, 2020