The New York Times warned on Sunday, popular messaging app ToTok is likely a surveillance tool for the United Arab Emirates and has been pulled from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. If you are also one of those hundreds of thousands of users who downloaded it, you should immediately remove it from your phone.
In the recent few weeks, the app has gained immense popularity all over the world as a social messaging platform. Google banned the app from Google Play on Thursday while Apple removed it the next day. ToTok was launched on July 27 and received quite a good response in UAE as WhatsApp and Skype are blocked there. It rapidly spread to other Middle Eastern countries and several other countries.
According to the intelligence report, the surveillance tool is used by the UAE to gather information about its users, including their conversation, location, social connection, movement, and many more. It also became trendy in the US and appeared in the US App Store. ToTok also wants permission to access the phone’s microphone, camera, location, photos, and contacts, which are commonly granted to messaging apps.
Computer security experts have claimed Breej Holding is the developer of the app, which is a front for DarkMatter. DarkMatter is a cyberintelligence company run by UAE intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees, and former Israeli military intelligence operatives.
The former National Security Agency hacker Patrick Wardle told the New York Times, "You don’t need to hack people to spy on them if you can get people to willingly download this app to their phone."
"By uploading contacts, video chats, location, what more intelligence do you need?"
On Sunday, ToTok, in a blog post, made a note of the allegations against the app, emphasizing its thousands of positive reviews. Citing its sudden disappearance of the app stores, it wrote, "Indeed, ToTok is temporarily unavailable in these two stores due to a technical issue."
"While the existing ToTok users continue to enjoy our service without interruption, we would like to inform our new users that we are well engaged with Google and Apple to address the issue."