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.
PlayStation 5 vs. Xbox Series X: Which Should You Buy? – How-To Geek
The stage is set for the next-generation console battle, as Sony and Microsoft go head-to-head this November with the release of the PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X and S.
If you want to get onboard from launch, it’s time to pick a side, as preorders go live in anticipation of a surge in demand.
The Green Corner: Xbox, Game Pass, and Halo Infinite
Nov. 10, 2020, two new Xbox consoles are launching worldwide: the Series X and the Series S. The Series X ($499.99) is an ultra-HD powerhouse, targeting a native 4K resolution. The Series S ($299.99) aims for a lower, 1440p (half of 4K) resolution and also foregoes a disc drive.
Both devices will target a baseline of 60 frames per second. Microsoft claims both will hit 120 frames per second on titles like Halo Infinite and Gears 5. Without seeing the hardware in action, though, we’ll just have to take Microsoft’s word for it (especially when it comes to the Series S).
Buying a console at launch can often feel like a raw deal. Few titles are available, and those that are tend to be iterative sports titles or underwhelming tech demos. Microsoft plans to address this issue with Game Pass, providing a library of over 100 titles people can play from the outset. Most of these are titles already available on last-gen systems.
Game Pass doesn’t scrimp on quality, either. First-party titles, like Forza Horizon 4, Minecraft, and Sea of Thieves (plus every Halo game), will be available at launch. There’s also a rotating selection of decent third-party titles, as well. At this writing, Resident Evil 7, Monster Hunter: World, and Wasteland 3 are all available.
Microsoft also announced it’s partnering with Electronic Arts to bring EA Play to Game Pass for the holidays. This means you’ll get all Microsoft’s exclusives, EA’s first-party titles, and a rotating lineup of third-party games with your subscription.
The biggest disappointment for many who were awaiting the release of the next-gen Xbox consoles was the news that Halo Infinite was being delayed until 2021. This was Microsoft’s killer title to get consoles into living rooms for the holidays in 2020. The new consoles will now launch without any big-budget exclusives and lean heavily on Game Pass and future promises, instead.
Fortunately, that future looks bright. Below are some of Microsoft’s Xbox first-party exclusives:
- A new Fable game.
- The next-generation Forza Motorsport title.
- A new game from Rare called Everwild.
- Obsidian Entertainment’s first foray into the open-world fantasy RPG genre, Avowed.
There are other “timed exclusives” and “Xbox console debuts” to come next year. These include a follow-up to legendary PC mid-2000s shooter, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Geiger-inspired horror show Scorn, and Hellblade II—the next chapter in Ninja Theory’s Senua Saga.
How Much Does It Cost?
The Xbox Series X will cost you $499.99, while the Series S will cost $299.99. Game Pass Ultimate, which includes Xbox Live Gold (required for online play) and access to Game Pass for PC costs $14.99 per month, but you get your first month for $1.
If you’d rather just pay for a regular Game Pass Console, it’s $9.99 per month. However, you’ll also need Xbox Live Gold to play online, which costs another $9.99 per month ($24.99 per quarter). Game Pass Ultimate is by far the best value, with over 100 games (even more on PC) and online play.
Microsoft also offers the Xbox Series X and Series S under their All Access plan. For $34.99 (Series X) or $24.99 (Series S) per month, you can get an Xbox console with Game Pass Ultimate. After two years, the console is yours, and you can extend Game Pass if you want. This option is marginally cheaper than buying each console and a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
In addition to the hardware, one game might cost you up to $70 for this generation. Some publishers have already committed to the $10 price hike over last-generation’s $60.
For the best possible savings, we recommend you avoid the all-digital Series S. Then, you’ll always be able to purchase physical releases anywhere, including the secondhand market.
What About Backward Compatibility?
Microsoft confirmed that both the Series X and Series S will be fully backward compatible with the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox. The Series X will play titles that have been enhanced for 4K, while the Series S will get its own enhanced versions.
For maximum backward compatibility, make sure you pick up a Series X with a disc drive so you can play any of your older discs. Digital titles will also work, whether you already have them in your library or purchase them from the store.
The Blue Corner: PlayStation, PS Plus Collection, and Spider-Man
Sony will also launch two consoles in November: the PlayStation 5 ($499.99), and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition ($399.99). Both will launch on the same day, but the release is staggered in two waves. The consoles release November 12 in the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, and November 19 in Europe, and the rest of the world.
Outside of the price, the only difference between the two devices is the presence of a physical disc drive. If you want the best deals possible or also want to use your PS5 as a Blu-ray player, the more expensive console is probably the better option.
Sony’s earliest PS5 first-party “exclusive” will be Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a follow-up to 2018’s critically acclaimed Spider-Man. While exclusive to Sony consoles, the game will also launch simultaneously on PS4.
You can expect a game that’s shorter in scope, with Sony also promising a more compact experience, reminiscent of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. The game’s launch window is “holiday 2020” which means it might not be quite ready for the November 12 launch.
The PlayStation 5 does include one pack-in game called Astro’s Playroom. A follow-up to the PSVR Astro Bot Rescue Mission, the game guides new players around the PlayStation 5’s dual-sense controller. It should provide a fun distraction for new owners.
Sony’s answer to Game Pass is the PlayStation Plus collection. It’s required for online play and provides members with additional benefits, like free monthly games and discounts. On the PS5, members will also be able to download 18 of what Sony calls “generation-defining” PS4 games.
This list includes first-party titles, like God of War, Uncharted 4, and Days Gone. There are also a handful of third-party titles, like Battlefield 1, Fallout 4, Persona 5, and Final Fantasy XV. It’s a far cry from the more than 100 games available on Game Pass—especially since titles like Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn are oddly missing.
When it comes to first-party exclusives, Sony’s future lineup includes Horizon Forbidden West, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and the hotly anticipated Demon’s Souls remake. Final Fantasy XVI will be a PlayStation-console exclusive, and a follow-up to 2018’s God of War has also been teased for 2021.
What Will It Cost Me?
The PlayStation 5 will cost $499.99 or $399.99 for the all-digital edition. PlayStation Plus is required for online play, and will now provide access to a collection of games for $9.99 per month, or $59.99 per year. Sony hasn’t yet announced any monthly payment plans that compete with Xbox All Access.
Like Xbox titles, some PlayStation 5 games will also cost $70 this generation. However, you can always save money by shopping around or purchasing secondhand copies if you buy the console with a physical disc drive.
What About Backward Compatibility?
Sony announced the PlayStation 5 will be 99 percent compatible with PlayStation 4 titles. The company also confirmed the “top 100” PS4 games had been tested, and that they worked on the new console. However, the company stopped short of claiming blanket compatibility.
Unfortunately, neither PS5 console will be compatible with titles created for pre-PS4 Sony consoles—at least, not at launch.
Struggling to Choose?
If you’re finding it hard to choose which console you want, you can always wait. Alternatively, if you’re flush with cash, you can buy both. For most people, the decision will be guided by the exclusives available on both platforms. Unfortunately, at launch, those games are very thin on the ground.
It’s no secret that Sony’s exclusives have been consistently excellent throughout the PS4’s life span, with Microsoft somewhat lacking in this department. That could all change this generation, though, with big-name studios, like Obsidian Entertainment and Double Fine, joining Microsoft as first-party developers.
If neither console piques your interest, waiting is probably best. If you don’t have an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, those consoles will be headed for a significant price drop.
Of course, you could also buy neither and build your own gaming PC, instead.
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Here are the browsers iOS 14 now lets you set as default – The Verge
With iOS 14, Apple finally lets you choose which browser you want to use as your default, letting you switch away from Safari if you’d rather use a third-party alternative like Chrome or Edge. Apple is also letting iPhone users change their default email app in the updated OS.
To be a candidate for the default browser, developers have had to update their apps. All browsers are still required to use WebKit as their underlying browsing engine, meaning that the main differences between them will come down to their user interfaces and how they sync with other platforms, rather than how they fundamentally render web pages. At the moment there’s only a limited selection of browsers that can be set as the default on iPhone.
Here’s a list of alternative default browsers we can confirm:
Notably absent from this list are the iOS version of Brave (although the company has confirmed that the latest version of its browser is currently going through Apple’s review process) and Opera Touch (the iOS version of Opera). We also downloaded a variety of other iOS browsers that are frequently recommended in “best iOS browsers” lists including Dolphin, Ghostery, UC Browser, and Aloha, and found that they did not appear in the default browser selection menu.
As of this writing, there appears to be a bug in iOS 14 which resets your default browser to Safari whenever your device reboots. Apple is yet to respond to our request for comment on the bug, but we’d expect it to be fixed with an upcoming patch for iOS.
In order to change your default browser, head into the Settings app, then scroll down to the browser you want to be your default. Click it and you’ll see a “Default Browser App” option if it’s default eligible.
Round Up: All The Games From The Nintendo Direct Mini: Partner Showcase – September 2020 – Nintendo Life
So, the latest Nintendo Direct Mini: Partner Showcase is all done and dusted, and wasn’t it a cracker?
In case you’re looking for a full recap, we’ve put together a list of all the show’s highlights and plonked them below for you. If you like, you can even rewatch the show itself – ideal if you missed it the first time around.
Ready? Tuck in.
Nintendo Direct Mini: Partner Showcase September 2020 – The Presentation
This latest entry in the action-RPG series finds players battling fearsome monsters and reaching new heights. Prepare to be transported to the colorful Kamura Village, a new serene mountain locale where players will experience unique culture and innovative hunting technologies. Using a special insect called a Wirebug, hunters will be able to grapple themselves in any direction, making it possible to scale towering cliffs and structures. All combat areas within each quest are seamlessly connected, allowing for exploration of the vast and vertical landscapes with no loading times.
Currently in development, MONSTER HUNTER STORIES 2: Wings of Ruin puts players in the role of a Monster Rider who befriends iconic monsters from the Monster Hunter series as they embark on epic adventures together. More information about this story-based role-playing game coming to Nintendo Switch in summer 2021 will be revealed in the future.
The little spirit Ori is no stranger to peril, but when a fateful flight puts the owlet Ku in harm’s way, it will take more than bravery to bring a family back together, heal a broken land and discover Ori’s true destiny. From Moon Studios, the creators of the acclaimed action-platformer Ori and the Blind Forest, comes a new adventure in a vast, vibrant world filled with new friends and foes that come to life in stunning, hand-painted artwork. Set to a fully orchestrated original score, Ori and the Will of the Wisps continues the Moon Studios tradition of tightly crafted platforming action and deeply emotional storytelling.
The sequel to Fitness Boxing has entered the ring! Grab the Joy-Con controllers, select the music and courses, and get to a variety of boxing exercises! Players can pick any one of nine instructors, each with their own distinctive personality, with three making their debut in the game: Karen, Janice and Hiro. As players continue exercising, their bond with the instructors will grow. Players can even customize their outfits, providing more variety to their workouts. Several features are included in this instalment, including a two-player mode, an alarm function and the ability to remove certain boxing actions. Save data can even be carried over from the first Fitness Boxing game!
As a result of Super Reincarnation, the boastful zombie Zed gets stronger the more he dies! By reincarnating their way through a variety of worlds, players will face off against the strongest God of Destruction. Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny marks the first time the series uses 3D models, with vibrant characters full of personality and the return of the series’ over-the-top battle system. Get ready for an experience that defies common sense, genre and destiny when Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny comes exclusively to Nintendo Switch in summer 2021.
Defy the god of the dead in this Greek mythology-inspired dungeon crawler. Thousands of story events and ability combinations ensure a unique experience each time players hack and slash their way out of the Underworld, wielding the powers and mythical weapons of Olympus to aid in their escape.
In this new strategy game, players enter the criminal underworld of Prohibition-era Chicago in the 1920s. It’s up to players to hustle, charm and intimidate their way to the top of the pile and do whatever it takes to stay there. Empire of Sin launches for Nintendo Switch on Dec. 1 and is available for pre-order starting today.
Across the largest and most diverse world ever seen in a Sniper Elite game, players can look forward to the series-defining ballistics, tense stealth and third-person action. Sniper Elite 4 launches for Nintendo Switch this holiday season.
The fairway is open in PGA TOUR 2K21! Play against the in-game pros on visually stunning real-life courses, hit the links with friends locally and online, or run full seasons and tournaments with Online Societies. Design and share the ultimate golf course using tons of custom options with the Course Designer. The digital version of PGA TOUR 2K21 is now available in Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch, with the physical version of the game launching on Sept. 25.
In this exploration-survival game, players are on their own as they journey through a frozen wilderness in the aftermath of a geomagnetic disaster. A chilling narrative awaits players in the WINTERMUTE Story Mode, or they can choose to enjoy hours of permadeath gameplay in Survival Mode.
As Leo and Emma, players will don costumes to wield a variety of abilities. A costume with a gear ability, for example, lets players rotate gears to open doors or access new paths. There are more than 80 costumes to find, with the ability to carry up to three at once. Change between costumes to collect crystals and Statues scattered throughout stages. A two-player mode is also available! By combining costume abilities with friends, players may be able to reach new locations. BALAN WONDERWORLD will make its grand entrance on Nintendo Switch on March 26, 2021.
Build a new life amidst a grand adventure in this heartwarming RPG. As a young man or woman with no memories, players will get a fresh start in the rural town of Rigbarth as a peacekeeping ranger. In addition to protecting the town, players’ day-to-day lives will include harvesting crops, fishing in the river and participating in local festivals. They may even find a special someone to start dating, fall in love with … and get married to! A new battle system allows players to perform combo attacks with allies to take down monsters. Begin life anew in a fantasy world when Rune Factory 5 launches on Nintendo Switch in 2021.
Which announcements were your favourites? Any games mentioned here that you’re looking forward to playing? Feel free to share your thoughts on the show in the comments.
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