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Russia declares war on encryption; Telegram doesn’t release user data

Messaging service Telegram may be blocked by Russian authorities, following accusations of facilitating communication between jihadists and the founder’s refusal to cooperate with security services writes BBC News.

Russia’s Federal Security Service agency (FSB) has said the suicide bomber from the St Petersburgh attack in April used Telegram and, because it offers high levels of encryption, it is the preferred communication medium for “international terrorist organizations in Russia.”

FSB “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,” the organization said.

According to Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor, Telegram is actively used by ISIS and its supporters in France and the Middle East, and has been linked to the criminals in the London Bridge attack.

Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, is also the co-founder of popular Russian social media network VKontakte, which he was asked to leave after refusing to give Russian security services confidential user data. Durov refused to comply with new data laws and does not allow regulators access to encrypted communication between users.

Both the FSB and Durov have accused each other of violating Russia’s legislation and constitution. Unless he releases the requested information to the authorities, Telegram may become illegal in Russia.

“If you want to defeat terrorism by blocking stuff, you’ll have to block the Internet,” Durov wrote.

Telegram is not the only messaging app to offer end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are two of the most popular messaging apps that provide encrypted communication. Once banned, terrorists would switch to a different provider, Durov explained.

Russia is not the only country to declare war on encryption. Recently UK government ministers have spoken out against encryption and demand tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook comply with the decryption law.

“Industry has its own responsibility to help combat terrorism and crime online,” the European Council concluded on security and defense. “It calls for addressing the challenges posed by systems that allow terrorists to communicate in ways that competent authorities cannot access, including end-to-end encryption, while safeguarding the benefits these systems bring for the protection of privacy, data and communication. The European Council considers that effective access to electronic evidence is essential to combating serious crime and terrorism and that, subject to appropriate safeguards, the availability of data should be secured.”

About the author

Luana PASCU

From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.

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  • Sorry, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger aren't good examples of apps that employ end-to-end encryption — quite the opposite. Try Threema or Signal.