ToTok, a free app for video calls and chatting is removed from Google Play Store for the second time. ToTok trades itself as a secured app for texting and video calling. But this app from Dubai turned out to be a spying app created by the UAE government. The app is already banished from Apple in the ending of December 2019.
ToTok (not to be confused with the Chinese TikTok app) which is launched by Breej Holding Ltd. from the United Arab Emirates. Even though the app is just months old there are a million downloads in UAE. It is mostly used in Middle East, Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa as per The New York Times.
It is said that the app ToTok is used as a spying app by the Dubai government. The app is created for the benefit of the UAE officials to keep track on their citizen’s conversations. When the US intelligence officials analyzed the security of the app, they said that the app is used to spy the conversations of the people.
The Company Breej Holding Ltd. is Dubai’s cyber security-based Darkmatter firm. The firm already said in the description of the app that it is free, fast and secure to use. But the App spies on the conversations, calls and the locations of their citizens.
On December 22 New York Times stated about the app as “One digital security expert in the Middle East, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss powerful hacking tools, said that senior Emirati officials told him that ToTok was indeed an app developed to track its users in the Emirates and beyond”.
Patrick Wardle a security researcher in the US stated that “There is a beauty in this approach, 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?”. The New York Times also stated that it is a new development in digital spying that too directly by the officials of the country.
This app is already banned in the ending of December 2019 for the same reason that the officials are scanning the people’s conversations. Then the ToTok stated that “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”.
They also said that the app is removed from Google Play Store and Apple Store, but the users of Samsung, Huwaei, Oppo, and Xaiomi can download the app from the app stores of those firms. They also said that the app will be back with new features like commerce, entertainment, news, and payment.
Recently Google Play Store restored the app in January. After the 9to5google stated that the ToTok app went down the Google Play Store confirmed that they removed the app from the Play Store and didn’t gave any further explanation. From Friday afternoon onwards ToTok is disabled from Play Store.