State Board of Governors authorizes Florida universities to ban TikTok, other softwares of concern

by | Apr 4, 2023

  • The Board of Governors for the State University System (SUS) of Florida has amended preexisting regulations to allow universities to prohibit the use of TikTok and other cyber threats on SUS devices and wireless infrastructure.
  • Several state colleges, including the University of Florida, have advised students to abandon using TikTok due to growing security concerns.
  • State universities are to adopt measures to safeguard their networks by adhering to a list of prohibited technologies endorsed by the state.
  • Florida State University (FSU) has preemptively barred access to TikTok, WeChat, Tencent QQ, and other software applications, citing unnecessary risks due to connections with potentially malicious foreign governments.

The Board of Governors for the State University System (SUS) of Florida amended preexisting regulations at its latest meeting that grants universities across the state the right to prohibit the use of TikTok and other cyber threats of concern on SUS devices and wireless infrastructure.

Security concerns regarding TikTok in particular have heightened across the ongoing Legislative Session, with members of the Florida Senate Fiscal Policy Committee approving a measure to would ban the Chinese-owned social media platform on state government devices and Wi-Fi networks.

Several state colleges — including the University of Florida — recently advised its students to abandon using TikTok, citing growing security concerns. The university referred to the platform as a “national security risk,” pointing to the possibility that foreign governments may use TikTok to control data collection and compromise personal devices.”

With the approved amendment, state universities are to adopt measures to safeguard their networks from cyber threats by adhering to a list of prohibited technologies endorsed by the state. This directive is based upon a consolidated list sourced from various threat intelligence providers, such as the Federal Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Florida Fusion Center.

The move aims to protect universities from potential threats, such as malware, unauthorized data access, and network breaches, that could lead to substantial reputational and financial damage. Consequently, the list will mandate institutions to implement a protection protocol to prevent the installation and use of banned technologies within their networks, both in hardware and software.

“This regulation requires that the institutions look at a prohibitive technologies list that will be developed and published, and prevent those technologies from being put on university devices, be transported across certain networks, or be installed in their infrastructure,” said Board member Gene Kovacs.

Following the decision, Florida State University (FSU) announced Monday night that it is preemptively barring access to a series of software applications including TikTok, as well as several other China-based platforms like WeChat and Tencent QQ. In an email sent to faculty and students obtained by The Capitolist, FSU claimed that on-campus access to the services brings about unnecessary risk due to connections to potentially malicious foreign governments that are capable of obtaining biometric data through the apps.

“Florida State University is committed to protecting our community against potential cyber threats,” reads the email. “This includes putting safety measures in place to protect our faculty, staff, and students’ personal data against any potential threats.”

State lawmakers are also working to enact similar regulations in Florida public schools. An amendment to a bill filed by Rep. Brad Yeager would require state K-12 schools to block students from accessing social media sites through the use of internet access provided by a school district. The legislation also seeks to implement social media safety education in grades 6 through 12.

Should the amendment garner the approval of state politicians, each school district would be required by law to install a firewall on school Wi-Fi systems to prevent students from accessing popular social media platforms while using the network.

Representatives from TikTok bucked the notion that the platform presents a threat, however, stating that the company has engaged in a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering security measures.

“TikTok has taken unprecedented actions to address national security concerns by securing U.S. user data on U.S. soil,” Jamal Brown, a TikTok spokesperson told The Capitolist. “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”


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