Popular new messaging app ToTok exposed as 'Emirati spy tool'

Popular new messaging app ToTok exposed as 'Emirati spy tool'
ToTok is a new messaging app used by millions across the world, but a new investigation has revealed it is being used as a spy tool by the UAE.
2 min read
23 December, 2019
ToTok is an 'Emirati spy ool' [Getty]
Users of a new viral messaging app are being spied on by the United Arab Emirates, according to a new report.

ToTok, a viral new messaging app, has been used by millions across the world as an easy and a secure form of voice, video and messaging communication tool.

Unlike other messaging apps such as Skype and WhatsApp, ToTok is not banned in the UAE. While it has a large base in the Gulf state due to ease of access, the app has a growing global user-base across the rest of the world, including the United States.

However, a report by New York Times revealed ToTok is affiliated with a cyberintelligence firm which has been accused of hacking perceived opposition to the Abu Dhabi government.

Read more: Is this Google-sanctioned Emirati company poaching Israeli intelligence officers?

After conducting technical analysis and interviews, the New York Times found that the firm behind ToTok, Breej Holding, is almost certainly affiliated with DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence and hacking firm which employs Emirati security officials, Israeli intelligence officers and US National Security Agency employees.

The firm is under FBI investigation for potential cybercrimes. 

The analysis also linked ToTok to Pax AI, an Abu Dhabi-based data mining firm which is allegedly tied to DarkMatter.

Pax AI operate from the same Abu Dhabi building as the Emirates’ signals intelligence agency, which until lately was where DarkMatter was based.

DarkMatter was founded and is led by tycoon Faisal Al-Bannai, who also established Axiom Telecom, one of the Gulf’s major mobile phone sellers and the son of a general in the UAE military.

The company has been accused of recruiting CIA and US government officials to ride on their top-level intelligence expertise.

DarkMatter has been accused of hacking Arab activists, media professionals and thinkers.

These include the founder of al-Araby al-Jadeed and The New Arab, Azmi Bishara, as well as its CEO, Abdulrahman Elshayyal, according to Reuters.

In July, Firefox's browser maker Mozilla blocked websites certified by DarkMatter, saying they found "credible evidence" that the company had been involved in hacking operations.

A month later in August, Google blocked websites certified by DarkMatter from its Chrome and Android browsers without giving a reason.

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