One of the most concerning things that happen during any crisis and conflict situation is that social media and messaging apps become crucial areas of concern. Social Media and Messaging apps could easily be susceptible to hacking and manipulation to spread panic and misinformation during these times. As Russia keeps attacking Ukraine, people are showing concerns regarding messaging apps Telegram over its security and warnings.
Telegram is a secure messaging app launched by Russian founder Pavel Durov in 2013, which promises users a lack of intervention from governments or tech companies and the ability to use end-to-end encryption on communication. It reports having some 500 million users worldwide. However, the fact that it is Russian-owned is freaking some people out.
Just before the declaration of war by Russia, Telegram is considered to be a better alternative to the Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp, particularly where security and privacy are concerned. However, in the current situation, Ukrainians are being warned to not use Telegram to prevent Russians from spying on them.
Time and again, the app Telegram has been stating that it is against big tech and for privacy rights. For instance, its FAQs state that “making profits will never be an end-goal for Telegram”. But despite marketing itself as a better, safer version of WhatsApp, the company’s privacy policies aren’t completely trustworthy.
Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of the popular messaging app Signal tweeted to warn Ukrainian users about Telegram amidst the rising usage of the app over this period of attacks and conflict. Various Ukrainian government officials, agencies (including military and security departments), etc., have been reportedly using Telegram and social media channels to spread the word about what is going on-ground and alert people about cyberattacks. Requests have been made across platforms for Ukrainian hackers to rise and defend the nation and to hack the Russians right back.
While Telegram is registered as an American LLC, it has not disclosed “where it rents offices or which legal entities it uses to rent it, citing the need to ‘shelter the team from unnecessary influence’ and protect users from government data requests”. Reports state that Telegram does have employees in Saint Petersburg, so if one thinks about it, it is not impossible for Moscow to get to them.
Now, while Telegram does have a “secret messages” feature, it needs to be turned on manually. Also, the platform is not end-to-end encrypted by default as Signal and WhatsApp are. Not only does Telegram have access to your contacts and metadata, but also the groups and channels are unsafe. In the same way, Telegram is comforting to Nazis, right-wing extremists, and conspiracy theorists due to which it has become a safe haven for them.
In a nutshell, although Telegram has been enjoying its success as a hybrid between a messaging app and a social network, it is not really a great choice if one is looking for secure communication. There are several other alternative choices that are both user-friendly and secure.