If you took even a cursory glance at social media over the past week or two, you couldn’t fail to have seen coverage of the TikTok CEO’s now infamous appearance before a United States Congressional committee hearing.
Shou Zi Chew was grilled during a session that lasted more than five hours, as lawmakers continue to deliberate as to whether to ban the platform in the US.
Chief among fears is that the company’s Chinese owners ByteDance are under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party.
Claims, repeatedly denied by Mr Chew, were that TikTok may be harvesting private information on American citizens and passing it on to the Chinese authorities.
The UK government has already acted, with official devices (including those issued to those working for the Northern Ireland Civil Service), now barred from accessing or downloading TikTok.
While opinions on his performance before Congress, and those of his inquisitors will vary, the hearing with Mr Chew was borne out of a concern for privacy and the protection of data.
Such considerations are not limited to TikTok, nor indeed social media, but the Congressional appearance did bring to the fore once again the growing critical importance to individuals and companies of closely guarding sensitive information.
As individuals, there are lots of simple things we can do to protect our personal data when online.
Things like, choosing strong and separate passwords, turning on two-step verification where it is available and ensuring software and apps are always up to date, can help.
For organisations, it’s much more complicated but a growing number of businesses are taking action.
The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022 produced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport found 82 per cent of senior management teams regarded cyber security as a “fairly high” or “very high” priority (up from 77 per cent on the previous year).
The government’s Cyber Essentials scheme is one tool that businesses are using in their response.
The certification programme, established by the National Cyber Security Centre, helps them safeguard against the most common threats by highlighting shortcomings and vulnerabilities and how they may be addressed.
Later this month, we’re hosting a free webinar on the scheme, featuring discussions with companies that have undertaken the certification process on how it has transformed their readiness to deal with cyber attacks.
It’s important because cyber breaches don’t just mean the loss of sensitive data. Companies can also face huge fines (equivalent to 4 per cent of their turnover) from the Information Commissioner’s Office, not to mention the reputational damage caused to the business.
As we await the US government’s next move on TikTok, for companies that aren’t adequately protected against data breaches, there is not time to lose on getting up to speed.