Firefox browser maker Mozilla is blocking the United Arab Emirates’ government from serving as one of its internet security gatekeepers, citing Reuters reports on a UAE cyber-espionage program.
Mozilla said in a statement on Tuesday it was rejecting the UAE’s bid to become a globally recognized internet security watchdog, empowered to certify the safety of websites for Firefox users.
Mozilla said it made the decision because cybersecurity firm DarkMatter would have administered the gatekeeper role and it had been linked by Reuters and other reports to a state-run hacking program.
Reuters reported in January that Abu Dhabi-based DarkMatter provided staff for a secret hacking operation, codenamed Project Raven, on behalf of an Emirati intelligence agency. The unit was largely comprised of former U.S. intelligence officials who conducted offensive cyber operations for the UAE government.
Former Raven operatives told Reuters that many DarkMatter executives were unaware of the secretive program, which operated from a converted Abu Dhabi mansion away from DarkMatter’s headquarters.
The program’s operations included hacking into the internet accounts of human rights activists, journalists and officials from rival governments, Reuters found.
DarkMatter has denied being connected to offensive hacking operations, saying the reports of its involvement were based on “false, defamatory, and unsubstantiated statements.”
The UAE embassy in Washington and DarkMatter did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.