Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, is restricting the government of the United Arab Emirates to become one of company’s internet security watchdogs, after a Reuters report last week uncovered a cyber espionage program by UAE.
UAE’s move to become a globally accepted gatekeeper for internet security with authority to certify the safety of websites for Firefox users was turned down by Mozilla, said the company in a statement on Tuesday.
Mozilla said that possibility of gatekeeper’s role to be administered by DarkMatter led the company coming to that decision as DarkMatter was previously linked to a state-run hacking program also exposed by Reuters as well as other reports.
In a January report, Reuters unveiled a secret hacking operation with codename Project Raven to which staff was provided on behalf of an Emirati intelligence agency by Abu Dhabi-based DarkMatter. The Project Raven was mostly formed by employing former officials of U.S. intelligence agencies, and used them to conduct offensive cyber activities for the UAE government.
But, as former Raven operatives told Reuters, many of DarkMatter executives were not in the knowledge of the secret program, which was being operated away from DarkMatter’s headquarters from a converted mansion in Abu Dhabi.
Hacking into the internet accounts of journalists, officials from rival governments and human right activists were included in the Raven’s operations, according to the Reuters findings at the time.
Reports from Reuters as well as the Intercept and the New York Times raised the fears among the Mozilla that DarkMatter would use the role of internet security watchdog to start on its surveillance operations, said Selena Deckelmann, Mozilla’s senior director of engineering.
Mozilla concluded that not regarding the credibility of evidence and placing its trust in DarkMatter would not only put the web but the users at risk, Deckelmann told Reuters.