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The New Arab

Is this Google-sanctioned Emirati company poaching Israeli intelligence officers?

DarkMatter has been blocked by Google [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 October, 2019

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Thousands of Israelis have left their country's cyber security firm to work for UAE-government linked DarkMatter, which has been accused of hacking.
Graduates of the Israeli army's technology units are turning down jobs in Tel Aviv to embark on better paid careers with a UAE company despite it being blocked by Google and Firefox due to its suspected dubious practices.

For the last two years, an Israeli cyber intelligence company has suffered a brain drain with a 2017 report by The New York Times showing that more than 8,200 former Israeli army personnel had left the intelligence company NSO.

A recent private investigation by NSO to find out the reason behind the mass departures has shown employees have been leaving to work for Emirati company DarkMatter.

DarkMatter is linked with the UAE government and has multiple offices across the world, including Cyprus and Singapore, where Israeli developers are highly sought after, due to their high-level of training in the military. 

"They're taking these young people to Cyprus, buying them off with huge salaries."

This is despite the company being accused of covertly stealing Israeli intellectual property.

"That is de facto smuggling of Israeli intellectual property without any supervision of the [Israel defence ministry’s] Defense Export Controls Agency," an anonymous source in the Israeli cyber intelligence sector told Haaretz.

DarkMatter has another office in Singapore which is being managed by Israelis.

DarkMatter was founded and is led by tycoon Faisal Al-Bannai, who also established Axiom Telecom, one of the Gulf’s major mobile phone sellers and the son of a general in the UAE military.

The company has been accused of recruiting CIA and US government officials to ride on their top-level intelligence expertise.

DarkMatter has been accused of hacking Arab activists, media professionals and thinkers.

These include the founder of al-Araby al-Jadeed and The New Arab, Azmi Bishara, and its CEO, Abdulrahman Elshayyal, according to Reuters.

In July, Firefox's browser maker Mozilla blocked websites certified by DarkMatter, saying they found "credible evidence" that the company had been involved in hacking operations.

A month later in August, Google blocked websites certified by DarkMatter from its Chrome and Android browsers without giving a reason.

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