DarkMatter, which previously separated itself from cyber offensive activities, has been taken over by Abu Dhabi-headquartered Digital14 to carry forward its cyber operations. The step seemed to be driven by various similarities identified between the two companies — common executives like Jack Wears, who is also the executive director of both.
Digital14 has also picked up some of the best Western engineers that DarkMatter had worked hard to attract like Eric Eifert — former senior vice-president for cyberdefence at the US defence company ‘ManTech’, and Jen Chen — head of ‘xen1thLabs’.
Some of DarkMatter’s cyber activities have already been transferred to Digital14 that now distributes the secure communications system ‘Katim’. The firm has also taken over the vulnerabilities research laboratory — xen1thLabs.
Two years ago, Protect Electronic Systems, another cyber-intelligence firm headquartered in Abu Dhabi, started emerging as the leading cyber-offensive player in the region. The firm had close contacts with several Western cyber firms and lured some of the key players of DarkMatter.
On the other hand, the UAE authorities remained upset with the previous press releases of DarkMatter. Reuters reported that DarkMatter had provided staff for a secret hacking operation, codenamed ‘Project Raven’. The unit largely comprised of the former U.S. intelligence officials, who conducted offensive cyber operations for the UAE government.
While notoriously conducting state-sponsored hacking operations, DarkMatter also took help from the Indian surveillance supplier — Aglaya to meet its offensive operation objectives. One of its secret spy apps ‘ToTok’ was criticised by The New York Times, for masking vast data collection operation led by the UAE.
In the wake of rising controversies, DarkMatter gave up its cyber offensive activities in 2018. ‘Protect Electronic Systems’ took over its zero day vulnerabilities research and exploits development and another UAE startup company — BeamTrail took over its Wi-Fi, GSM, 3G and other network penetration activities. Both the companies were later incorporated into the hybrid warfare and cyber company — EDGE Group, which was launched at the end of 2019.
EDGE, headed by Former DarkMatter CEO — Faisal Al Bannai included most of DarkMatter’s cyber-offensives experts in its group. It’s not the first time, when state actors have covered up their controversial actions by renaming their agencies. Earlier also such instances have occurred and there is a high possibility of these patterns to continue in the near future.