Iran Begins To Block Telegram Messaging App

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

First Russia now Iran becomes latest country to begin blocking access to Telegram services

Iran has begun to disrupt certain features of the popular, but controversial, Telegram messaging app.

In an official statement, Iran’s net regulator reportedly said swapping images and videos via the service was no longer permitted. It said the move was likely to affect the “quality” of the app in the country.

It comes after access to Telegram was shut down in Russia this month, after the app refused to give Russian state security services access to its users’ secret messages by handing over encryption keys used to scramble the messages.

Russia ban

Russia’s regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) had taken the decision after Telegram had missed the 4 April deadline to hand over the encryption keys.

Russian authorities have previously accused Telegram of enabling terrorists to communicate in secret through the encrypted messaging and have blamed the app for concealing the messages of the suicide bomber who killed 15 people in St Petersburg in April 2017.

The app is also known to have been used by Islamic State for propaganda purposes in the past, especially by those based in Russia, but the company has made efforts to clamp down on these terrorist accounts.

Despite this, Russia’s FSB Federal Security Service wants access to some messages for its work, including safeguarding against terrorist attacks.

Telegram has consistently refused to comply with its demands, citing respect for user privacy. Indeed, Telegram founder Pavel Durov has always maintained his stance against the sharing of confidential data with government entities.

As a result of the Telegram ban in Russia, Google this week confirmed its services in that country were also being affected.

Indeed, the Telegram ban has also affected infrastructure providers such as Amazon and other applications that use Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google infrastructure, such as Twich and Spotify.

Iranian move

And now it seems that Iran is following Russia’s lead. Iran telecoms officials told the BBC that Telegram’s licence to site its servers in the country had been revoked and this meant the servers had to be moved outside Iran’s borders and all in-bound traffic must now be routed through Iran’s government-controlled net gateways.

Telegram has yet to confirm whether it has moved its servers outside of Iran and whether the block is working.

It is reported that Telegram has around 50 million users in Iran, but the Iranian government has long been critical of it and has said its use was behind a lot of anti-establishment protests.

Earlier this week Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shut down his Telegram channel, saying that this would help “safeguard the national interest”.

Iranian government workers and officials have also all been told to stop using the messaging app. Iranians are being encouraged to use an alternative home-grown app called Soroush.

Crackable app?

Telegram has a tough reputation, but there could be some chinks in its security.

In March last year, both WhatsApp and Telegram issued emergency patches after researchers at Check Point found a “severe vulnerability” for the web versions of the end-to-end encrypted chat applications.

And it should be remembered there is a chance that these apps may not be as secure as some people like to think.

WikiLeaks has previously published sensitive US intelligence data which revealed that American spy agencies such as the CIA supposedly have the ability to bypass the encryption on WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.

Do you know all about security? Try our quiz!

Read also :