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The hottest new smartphone chat app is secretly spying on you, so uninstall it right now

Updated Dec 23rd, 2019 10:42AM EST
ToTok App Spying

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Not all mobile messaging apps are equal when it comes to built-in security and privacy protections, so you should be wary of anything new that comes your way no matter how viral it might. Not all of them feature end-to-end encryption, which is the only kind of encryption you should want in an instant messaging app — the list of secure apps includes iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, or Signal by the way. Some of them might actually spy on you, especially if you’re a high-target individual, or if you live in certain parts of the world. The newest popular chat app that’s secretly spying on you is called ToTok and comes from the Emirates.

ToTok is clearly meant to sound like the popular TikTok social network, which is easy to understand why it went viral so fast. The app was launched a few months ago, The New York Times reports, and was downloaded millions of times on iPhone and Android. But the app surged to become one of the most downloaded social apps in the United States last week, according to App Annie.

The app, however, appears to be a spying tool capable of tracking “every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones,” American officials familiar with classified intelligence reports revealed to The Times. Officials also informed American allies about the dangers of the application.

Further analysis showed the company responsible for developing the app, Breej Holding, might be a front company affiliated with DarkMatter. That’s an Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence and hacking firm employing former NSA, Israeli military intelligence, and Emirati intelligence agents.

The technical analysis of ToTok also linked the app to Pax AI, a data-mining firm that’s also from Abu Dhabi, and also potentially tied to DarkMatter.

DarkMatter also happens to be under FBI investigation for possible cybercrimes.

The Times explains that the popularity of ToTok has increased in the UAE after the government blocked alternative chat apps, including WhatsApp and Skype in the region.

Both Google and Apple removed the app from the Play store and App Store, respectively, last week, after The Times inquired about the application. If you’re using ToTok on your phone, you should consider deleting it immediately.

You should also check out the full Times report for more details about the ToTok app.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.