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Foreign spies use your chat app

By Katie Ritchie

 

Many of us are wary of the way companies and apps use and misuse our private information. Facebook and Twitter are common offenders. Last week the New York Times broke a story of the United Arab Emirates government using a chat app to spy.

An app called ToTok was released a few months ago. At that time, it was downloaded by millions of unsuspecting users. The app was popular in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.
Most of the users who downloaded the app were in the Emirates. However, ToTok was one of the most downloaded social apps in the US 2 weeks ago. That’s why I wanted to warn you and your family.

Why is the U.A.E. government spying on citizens this way? It’s more convenient than other means of surveillance. Citizens, the government’s enemies and criminals install the app themselves.

The FBI is currently investigating DarkMatter, the cyberintelligence and hacking firm they suspect is behind the app. The firm is being investigated for possible cybercrimes.

How did ToTok become so popular, so quickly? The U.A.E. blocks some functions of other popular communication apps. ToTok was promoted as a “fast and secure” alternative. So much for that.

The good news is that the Apple App Store and Google Play Store have removed the app from their listings. It can’t be downloaded onto new devices. However, those who have already downloaded the app will be spied upon until they delete it from their device.

As always, protect yourself by being wary of what you’re downloading. The only hint that ToTok was suspect was a sentence in the privacy policy. “We may share your personal data with group companies.”