ToTok, alleged UAE government spyware posing as a chat app, pulled from Play Store
ToTok, a messaging app popular in West Asia with over 7.9 million downloads on the App Store and Play Store, was identified as a spying tool by a New York Times investigation. ToTok's cofounders responded recently to this allegation. They described the New York Times revelation as a "deranged claim that our app is a spy tool built by the Israeli intel officers."
According to the report and certain US officials, the U.A.E government uses the ToTok app to read and record conversations and media on the phones of people who have downloaded it. Concerningly, ToTok briefly became one of the most frequently downloaded social apps in the US prior to being taken down.
Security experts believe that Breej Holding (the firm running ToTok) could be a front for DarkMatter, a hacking firm associated with UAE Signal Intelligence. This company is currently being investigated by the FBI for cybercrimes.
While the UAE is a strong US ally in the Middle East, it has a record of clamping down on digital and personal freedoms. In fact, one of the key reasons behind ToTok's popularity was that certain functions of WhatsApp and Skype are blocked in the country. With cybercrime costing billions of dollars each year, the ToTok fiasco is the latest indicator that digital security needs to be taken seriously by everyone.