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The US state of Maryland has banned its companies from using TikTok and other Chinese and Russian platforms after Chinese state-backed hackers allegedly stole millions in US Covid relief funds.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency directive on Tuesday banning the use of Chinese and Russian products and platforms, including social media app TikTok, messaging app WeChat and Russia’s Kaspersky cybersecurity software.
The governor’s office noted that these products and platforms “present an unacceptable level of cybersecurity risk” to the state, adding that they could be involved in cyber-espionage, and government agency surveillance or inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information.
“There is no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives,” Mr. Hogan said in a statement.
“As America’s cyber capital, Maryland has taken bold and decisive steps to prepare for and address cybersecurity threats. To further secure our systems, we are issuing this urgent directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to undermine and divide us,” he added. did
The guideline applies to TikTok, Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corp, Tencent QQ, QQ Wallet, WeChat, Alibaba products, AliPay and Kaspersky.
State agencies were ordered to remove these products from networks and implement measures to prevent their installation
Maryland’s Chief Information Security Officer Chip Stewart urged agencies to implement restrictions to prevent use or access to these services.
“This action represents an important step forward in protecting Maryland state systems from cybersecurity threats posed by foreign entities,” said Mr. Stewart.
The ban on these apps and platforms follows NBC’s report citing the US Secret Service that Chinese government-linked hacking group APT41 stole at least $20 million from Covid relief benefits, including unemployment insurance funds and Small Business Administration loans, in more than a dozen US states. . From the year 2020.
While it remains to be seen whether the hackers stole the funds for personal gain or on behalf of Beijing, experts say this could be the first example of pandemic fraud linked to foreign, state-backed cybercriminals.
APT41 has been under FBI surveillance since before the pandemic, with the Secret Service calling it a “Chinese state-sponsored, cyberthreat group that is highly adept at conducting espionage missions and financial crimes for private gain.”
Over the years they have targeted several companies, “representing a wide array of industries to include: social media, telecommunications, government, defense, education and manufacturing,” according to the FBI.
“The Chinese government has shown a willingness to steal information from Americans that dwarfs any other,” FBI Director Christopher Wei said last week, adding that TikTok poses a threat to national security.