Delete Popular Chat App ToTok Right Now! It’s Allegedly an Emirati Spy Tool



UPDATE: Totok is back on the Google Play Store even after being flagged as a spy tool for the UAE. It had been removed from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. In the What’s New section, ToTok says its more explicit in what data they collect now.

ToTok is a messaging app popular on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. US intelligent officials are saying the app may likely be a spy tool that sends data from users to the government of the United Arab Emirates. the app has been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of users and its advisable to delete it right now.

TokTok was removed from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store on Thursday and Friday this past week respectively but the app still kept working for users who have already downloaded it. The app offers free unlimited voice, video calling and messaging to anyone with an internet connection to stay connected with family and friends around the world and has received lots of positive reviews especially from the UAE where other messaging apps have been blocked or don’t have these features and you have to use a VPN – this fact alone should have raised eyebrows.

Although Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store ensure apps on its platforms aren’t malicious, some manage to slip through. It’s even worse when the apps are surveillance tools.

The messaging app says that it’s a  “fast and secure calling and messaging app,” but on close inspection – it doesn’t talk about end-to-end encryption which is a feature that protects data from prying eyes at all times except on authorized users’ devices.

“When you start analyzing an app like this you expect to find a backdoor or some zero-day exploits. But the more I think about it, this is actually a more elegant approach, which is just leveraging completely legitimate functionality. What that gives you is a very cost-effective, easy way to gain a ton of information on people,” says Patrick Wardle, a security researcher at Jamf specialized in Apple operating systems who formerly worked at the National Security Agency in his technical analysis of ToTok.

“The problem is where’s the data going and who has access to it? And those are very, very hard questions to answer. There’s a large amount of plausible deniability, which is why it’s a no-brainer approach to gain a high degree of surveillance. I’m not saying it’s good or ethical, but if other countries aren’t doing this, from their point of view they should,” Wardle continues in Wired.

Read the New York Time article about the app here.

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George Kamau
I brunch on consumer tech | first.last at techweez dot com