The New York Times reported that the ToTok messenger turned out to be a tracking tool. The application allowed the UAE authorities to track conversations, movements and other data of users who installed it on their devices.
ToTok is believed to be an easy and secure way to chat via video or text messages with friends and family, even in a country where popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype are limited.
“This service, ToTok, is actually a spying tool, according to American officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and a New York Times investigation into the app and its developers. It is used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones”, — report The New York Times journalists.
The well-known information security specialist Patrick Wardle, who helped to study ToTok for the publication, writes on his blog that the application seems to have been used for mass surveillance, which “probably allowed a deep study of most of the country’s population.”
According to him, the application has gained popularity by offering free calls and messaging to users who have Skype and WhatsApp blocked, which also contributed to fake reviews.
The expert compares ToTok with the “massive collection” of metadata that the NSA in the US deals with, but notes that in this case the problem is even more serious.
According to Wardle, ToTok tricks iPhone and Android users into sharing location data and other personal data on their devices.
“You get access to users’ address books, chat rooms, location, and much more, in a completely “legitimate” way approved by Apple!”, – write the researcher.
According to media reports, the application launched this year was developed by Breej Holding, which seems to be just a screen related to DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based firm specializing in cyber intelligence and hacking.
Currently, ToTok has already been expelled from the App Store (pending verification) and the Play Store (due to a violation of the rules of the platform). Application developers did not respond to espionage allegations, but reported on their blog that the messenger was “temporarily unavailable” in application stores due to technical problems. The developers assured that they are already in touch with Google and Apple to solve this problem.
While totalitarian countries come up with different ways to keep track of citizens, an international team of scientists has developed the perfect encryption method. What waits for us in the future? The world of “1984” or the right to privacy for all?