Categories: Workspace

Russian Court Orders Ban On Telegram Messaging App

A Russian court has ordered telecom firms to starting blocking access to the mobile messaging app Telegram in Russia.

It comes after Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, filed a lawsuit last week 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.

Telegram missed the 4 April deadline to hand over the encryption keys, after Telegram founder Pavel Durov, reiterated his stance last June against the sharing of confidential data with government entities.

Court order

The Moscow court ordered telecommunications companies to block the Telegram chat app in Russia.

According to Bloomberg, Telegram failed to comply with local legislation, according to the ruling by Tagansky court judge Yuliya Smolina.

She granted a request by Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor to restrict user access with immediate effect.

The decision can be appealed within 30 days, but must be implemented first, she reportedly said.

But it remains to be seen how effective this ruling will be.

Telegram is widely used countries across the former Soviet Union and Middle East, and reportedly has 200 million active users as of March this year, making it the ninth most popular messaging app in the world.

Indeed, researcher Mediascope estimates that Telegram has over 9.5 million users in Russia alone.

Telegram is firmly in Moscow’s crosshairs because it allows users to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties, including government authorities.

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.

Crackable app?

But there have been some chinks in Telegram’s 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!

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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