The Gulf nation has a infamous reputation for snooping on its citizens as well as other nationalities. This time, a mobile app was used to breach data.
The UAE government was under fire on Tuesday after an investigation report found that the oil-rich nation was monitoring its citizens by using the popular messaging app for free, ToTok.
The app was created through Breej Holding, which is connected to the Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence company and hacking firm DarkMatter.
Abu Dhabi is a state in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi wields immense political influence as part of the United Arab Emirates, a federal Gulf state that is closely tied with both US as well as Israel.
In an investigation by the New York Times investigation The UAE in which popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Skype are blocked to prevent forces of opposition from organizing dissenting voices has collaborated in conjunction with the former Israeli intelligence officers to use ToTok to hack into mobile data and collect personal information.
The New York Times reports unidentified Middle Eastern digital security expert as saying that he received information from high-ranking UAE official that ToTok was created primarily to serve as an intelligence-gathering program that was backed by the state. It was not just aimed at but the UAE as well as other countries.
ToTok was introduced a few months ago, and it swiftly “became the most downloaded social app” in the US in the last week, bringing Washington’s attention on revelations of data breaches according to New York Times.
FBI as well as the other US security agencies in the US have voiced concern about the app’s access to mobile phones utilized by US citizens.
US intelligence has earlier informing the former National Security Agency staff, who worked for UAE as contract operatives. UAE in the capacity of contract-based operatives regarding the UAE’s surveillance of American citizens, as per an exhaustive Reuters story.
A worker is seen looking at his mobile phone in the newly-opened Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on the 27th of October in 2013. (Patrick Castillo / AP Archive)
ToTok seems to be a clone of YeeCall, which is a Chinese social network, that was modified for English and Arabic-speaking users, has grown beyond imagination and reached Europe, India and other Middle Eastern countries, which users all enjoy using an app that does not have any connection to a nation’s power.
In recent Google Play rankings, the UAE app has been ranked as one of the top 50 messaging platforms.
The United Arab Emirates’ famous DarkMatter is a notorious dark matter that has been reported to have fed the intelligence agency of the country with important information about journalists, dissidents, and activists for human rights through hacking phones and other devices for communication was created in the hands of Faisal al Bannai, who is the CEO of Axiom Telecom.
Bannai He was named one of the 100 most inspirational leaders of the Middle East by Arabian Business, a Dubai-based magazine Bannai comes from a strong familial. His father was general within the UAE military.
DarkMatter President Faisal al-Bannai speaks to journalists in Abu Dhabi, UAE on January. 30 January 30, 2018. DarkMatter has recruited Western security analysts, and it is slowly moving into the light amid concerns from activists about its influence. (Jon Gambrell / AP Archive)
Bannai has been on good relations with Israelis. He visited Israel a few times and met with senior cybersecurity experts at times.
Evidently, Bannai’s talks with Israelis are paying off by persuading Israel’s former intelligence officials who made “up to $1 million annually” as employees of DarkMatter, according to Haaretz,an Israeli newspaper, to provide his company with a hefty salary.
With the assistance by Israel’s previous intelligence officers Bannai’s DarkMatter not only compromised its own citizens, but also attempted to hack government departments in other countries, such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar.
However, Bannai isn’t the only UAE connection to Israel.
As per Tel Aviv’s legal quota, Israeli companies sold sensitive tracking technologies to the Gulf country.
In 2016 Israel’s notorious NSO Group, which was recently accused of hacking into the smartphones of human rights attorneys journalists, political activists, and politicians, causing a security vulnerability in the chat apps WhatsApp, sold its well-known tech to UAE for hacking the iPhone of the UAE’s most powerful human rights activist and dissident, Ahmed Mansour.
Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent UEA human rights advocate, was repeatedly attacked for years by ex- American intelligence agents working in the UAE. (Nikhil Monteiro / Reuters Archive)
Following the hack, Mansour was arrested and detained and tortured.
NSO sells the majority of its spyware products to governments of the Middle East, including the UAE.
In another instance, AGT International, which is owned by an Israeli citizen was reported to be askedin 2018 to create an intelligent-city program to monitor the UAE citizens, who comprise around 10 million.
The UAE has no official connections with Israel.