Russian Authorities Blame Telegram For Concealing Terrorist Activities

Russia’s principal security agency, the FSB, has got its sights set on mobile messenger app Telegram after believing it was used by a terrorist suicide bomber.

The FSB says the terrorist who killed 15 people in St Petersburg in April used the app whilst planning the attack with accomplices, making use of the end-to-end encryption to evade detection by authorities.

The Russian government has also accused Telegram of violating legislation around local data laws and has threatened to block the app entirely.

Encryption debate

Similar to WhatsApp, Telegram enables groups of up to 5,000 users to send fully encrypted messages, documents, videos and pictures for free and boasts around 100 million users worldwide.

The app is 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.

But the FSB has increased the pressure on the app even further by saying it has “received reliable information about the use of Telegram by the suicide bomber, his accomplices and their mastermind abroad to conceal their criminal plots at all the stages of preparation for the terrorist attack”.

In a damning statement, it added that the app provides “terrorists with the opportunity to create secret chat rooms with a high degree of encryption”.

Telegram’s founder, Russian businessman Pavel Durov, has so far refused to let regulators or authorities access encrypted messages, saying that it would violate users’ constitutional right to privacy.

An almost identical debate is currently taking place in the UK with WhatsApp. Home Secretary Amber Rudd slammed WhatsApp’s “completely unacceptable” use of encryption after the Westminster terror attack, accusing the app of giving terrorists “a place to hide.”

Prime Minister Theresa May then stoked the fire further after the London Bridge attack by calling for new regulations that would “deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online”.

It is clear that government’s and law enforcement are concerned about the levels of encryption offered by the likes of WhatsApp and Telegram and the privacy debate it has sparked will certainly rage on for some time.

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Sam Pudwell

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

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