Leading SA: Director of UTSA’s Data Analytics Program talks about cybersecurity threats, TikTok

Max Kilger spoke about how UTSA is educating future cybersecurity experts

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio is Military City USA, so it could be looked at as Cybersecurity City USA. We have seen momentous upgrades in our cybersecurity career paths and education systems across the Alamo city.

Max Kilger, the director of the Data Analytics Program at UTSA, joined Leading SA on Sunday to talk all things cybersecurity, starting with TikTok.

So there are a number of sort of significant threats from the app. The first, of course, is gathering information,” he said.

See the full interview in the video player above.

Kilger said the app collects data like watch history, search history and message content on TikTok.

“And so they’re basically gathering information that could be shared with the Chinese government. And this could be a huge counterintelligence bonanza for the Chinese state security service,” he said. “They could be collecting personal information on people who have sensitive jobs in the defense industry or in the military or government.”

Kilger said Facebook has a similar algorithm that controls what users see, but Facebook is not owned by a Chinese company that also has ties to the Chinese government.

“And so finally, you have to think about how TikTok might shape information. So say, for example, the upcoming 2024 election and how Tik Tok might basically micro-targeting people by looking at the information that they gather. And then micro-targeting messages that might influence how they vote in the 2024 presidential election,” Kilger said.

And of course, with the digital space being so ubiquitous, so is the threat of cybersecurity attacks.

He said on Feb. 17, the U.S. Marshals Office noticed data was being exfiltrated from one of their systems.

The U.S. Marshal’s office said most of the information was administrative data and they denied sensitive information like witness protection information was collected.

“But about three days ago, an unknown actor emerged on the dark web claiming to have 360 gigabytes of exfiltrated U.S. marshal data and fairly sensitive data. But it’s unclear. They’re trying to sell it for $150,000. It’s unclear whether this is a real offer or whether it’s just the cybercriminal basically trying to cash in on this ransomware attack, but doesn’t really have the data,” Kilger said.

Kilger said organizations need to put more emphasis and effort into securing their information.

UTSA is taking steps to educate cybersecurity experts of the future with their new San Pedro 1 facility downtown.

“They’ve taken some of the world-class scholars from UTSA and ensconced in that building, fabulous teaching facilities for students, emphasizing cybersecurity, data science, data analytics in all sorts of different disciplines,” he said. ”It’s a really amazing place, and they’re working really hard to integrate San Pedro 1 into the San Antonio community. So it’s really fabulous to see that happen.”

Read more on Leading SA.

About the Author:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.