Google and Apple have removed an Emirati messaging app called ToTok amid claims that it is used for state spying.
Not to be confused with China’s TikTok, ToTok markets itself as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text.
However, The New York Times (NYT) has reported allegations that the WhatsApp-lookalike is a spy tool for the United Arab Emirates government.
ToTok has told users that it will be back in the app stores soon.
In a blog, it wrote that it is “temporarily unavailable” on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store because of a “technical issue”.
Citing American officials as sources, the NYT reported that ToTok gives UAE spies access to citizen’s conversations, movements, and other personal information like photos.
Google removed the app last Thursday and Apple pulled it the following day. However, ToTok users, who already have the app on their phone, can carry on using it.
Millions of users
ToTok is only several months old but it has been downloaded by users in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, according to the NYT.
Google Play Store showed that it had five million Android downloads alone before it was removed, while app-tracker App Annie said that ToTok was one of the most downloaded social apps in the US last week.
The NYT reports that the app’s publisher, Breej Holding Ltd, is affiliated with DarkMatter, which is an Abu Dhabi-based intelligence and hacking firm that is allegedly under investigation by the FBI for possible cyber-crimes.
DarkMatter employs Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives, according to the NYT.
ToTok, DarkMatter, and the Embassy of United Arab Emirates in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“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,” ToTok said in a blog.
It pointed out that new users with Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo phones could still download ToTok on the phone maker’s own app stores.
The company promised to be back “in the near future” with new features such as payment, news, commerce, and entertainment.
Other messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype, which offer end-to-end encryption, are restricted in the UAE. While they can be used for messaging, they can’t be used for video calls.
It also states: “We may share your personal data with group companies.”
However, there is no specific mention of the United Arab Emirates government.
Decrypting the app
Security firm Objective-See says that it worked with the NYT on the investigation.
In a blog, the company explained that it performed an analysis of ToTok’s iOS app on a “jailbroken” iPhone – ie one which had been altered to bypass manufacturer restrictions. Analysts decrypted the ToTok app and the app’s “network traffic”.
The analysts said that the legitimacy of the app is “really the genius of the whole mass surveillance operation”.
They noted that they found no backdoors, no malware, and no exploits in the app.
Apple warns against putting an iPhone 12 too close to your pacemaker – Yahoo Movies Canada
The Canadian Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An alleged rebel commander from Central African Republic has been detained and turned over to the International Criminal Court by authorities in the troubled African nation, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the capital, Bangui, in 2013. The court announced the surrender of Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, of the Seleka rebel group, on Sunday night. He was detained on a warrant issued by the court under seal in January 2019. Fighting raged in Bangui in 2013 between the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels, who seized power from then-President Francois Bozize, and a mainly Christian militia called the anti-Balaka. The violence left thousands dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The Hague-based court already has detained two alleged commanders of the anti-Balaka, Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, whose trial is scheduled to start next month. Said is the first suspect detained from the Seleka side of the conflict. A judge at the court who issued the arrest warrant found “reasonable grounds to believe that, from at least March 2013 until at least January 2014, a widespread and systematic attack was conducted by members of the Seleka against the civilian population and those perceived to be collectively responsible for, complicit with or supportive of the former Bozizé government and, later, of the Anti-Balaka,” the court said in a statement. Said is charged with crimes including torture, persecution and enforced disappearances. The court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, welcomed the arrest. “As I have previously stated, my office will relentlessly pursue justice for the victims of atrocity crimes in the Central African Republic. Today is another manifestation of that commitment,” she said. The detention came with Central African Republic again in turmoil. On Friday, the government declared a 15-day nationwide state of emergency as a coalition of armed groups seeks to overthrow the newly reelected President Faustin-Archange Touadera. Mike Corder, The Associated Press
Players Unlock A New Secret Weapon In Assassin's Creed Valhalla After Hitting A Pile Of Rocks – Kotaku
Players have discovered a new hidden and powerful bow in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. All you have to do is find a specific pile of rocks and hit it a few times and reload your save. Though, this isn’t the intended way to get the weapon.
Players have discovered that a small, unremarkable pile of rocks in the northern area of the main Valhalla map holds a strange and powerful secret. If you hit these rocks… nothing happens. Unlike similar rock piles in the game, this pile won’t break. However, if you hit this pile of rocks a few times, save your game, and reload, well nothing happens. But repeat this a few times, for most players, it takes about three reloads, and eventually, you’ll unlock Norden’s Arc.
JorRaptor did a great video showing off the rock method, how players even figured it out and how powerful the bow is. (Spoilers: It’s very deadly.)
This hunter bow is an Isu weapon. The Isu were an ancient civilization of super-powerful beings who enslaved humans and… look, you probably don’t care and I don’t have the time to fully explain it. They were powerful and aren’t around anymore, but their relics and weapons still exist, like this bow. That’s the short version.
I gave this method a try and got lucky. On my very first reload it worked. Though I deleted the save. Because, while this method works reliably, it doesn’t seem like the way Ubisoft would have intended players to unlock this special weapon. It seems like a glitch.
This was confirmed earlier today by Darby McDevitt, the narrative director on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. McDevitt explained on Twitter, in a reply to a JorRaptor tweet, that this method was a “clever brute force hack” that might be useful for speedrunners.
However, he clarified that there is an actual in-game way to unlock this bow, but didn’t say how. Though when someone pointed out that some player must have solved the secret by now, McDevitt vaguely responded “Someone almost has.”
This powerful Assassin's Creed Valhalla weapon is hidden in a pile of magic rocks – Eurogamer.net
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla players have discovered a secret powerful weapon hidden in a pile of rocks. Well. Kind of.
The secret Nodens’ Isu Arc bow unlocks for players who repeatedly hit a small pile of rocks near Brunson Turret in Northumbria. In the lake to the north, there’s a small island, and on there, you’ll find the rock ore pile you need.
YouTuber JorRaptor takes you through the steps right here (thanks, Kotaku) and it’s been verified now by a number of players:
Hit the rocks a few times – you’ll notice it doesn’t break as others do – and then save and reload your game. Rinse and repeat until you load in to find the rock pile is now broken, and Nodens’ Arc Hunter Bow should pop up on the side of the screen.
Whether or not this is intentional remains to be seen (I suspect not), so if you’re keen, head there now and grab it before Ubisoft patch it out.
ICYMI, Ubisoft recently released a big bug-squashing update for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The game’s 1.1.1 update is light on new features but heavy on fixes, with dozens of common issues crossed off.
Among those that stood out for Tom in a quick scan down its very long patch notes are solutions to the bug experienced by numerous people which saw them permanently stuck in their Halloween-esque Mari Lwyd disguise even after completing that quest arc. Ubisoft Connect achievements have also been fixed, and should correctly unlock the next time you perform any achievement-related action past the unlock condition.
Next up for Valhalla is a new river raiding mode and a levelling system for your Jomsvikings, due to arrive in February.
Cover image credit: JorRaptor
Apple warns against putting an iPhone 12 too close to your pacemaker – Yahoo Movies Canada
Health unit probing second possible UK variant outbreak in region – OrilliaMatters
China Overtakes U.S. as World’s Leading Destination for Foreign Direct Investment – The Wall Street Journal
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Galaxy M31 July 2020 security update brings Glance, a content-driven lockscreen wallpaper service
Health23 hours ago
Alberta confirms 643 new cases of COVID-19, 12 new deaths – 660 News
Economy22 hours ago
Canadian retail sales jump in November, but December looks gloomier
News22 hours ago
In blow to Trudeau, queen’s representative in Canada quits after harassment allegations
Health17 hours ago
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine – Kamloops This Week
Business22 hours ago
How to Succeed When Buying a Franchise Store and Financing Its Cost
Sports13 hours ago
FRIESEN: Jets failed with Laine, top to bottom – Winnipeg Sun
Health13 hours ago
Don't make plans' warns Henry in pleas to stem Family Day travel – Powell River Peak
Sports17 hours ago
Stanley Johnson turns the tides as Toronto’s defense recovers against the Miami Heat – Raptors Republic