Telegram and blocking in the Russian Federation: why officials have dramatically changed their attitude to the messenger and does it make sense to block it

On June 23, on Friday, Roskomnadzor announced the upcoming blockade of Telegram in case of failure of the creators of the messenger to register as an organizer of information dissemination ( ARI ). This statement went against the fact that Roskomnadzor spoke back in May. Then the representatives of the department called the usual rumors the intention to add the messenger to the registry of the ARI. According to the legislation of the Russian Federation, all information dissemination organizers are obliged to store user data from Russia in the country for one year, giving the secret services access to the archives on demand.

Now the situation is even more complicated. Alexander Zharov, the head of Roskomnadzor, said that Telegram would be blocked in a few days if Pavel Durov, the head of Telegram, ignored the request of Roskomnadzor to conduct the messenger through the registration procedure. Why did the officials so drastically change their opinion regarding Telegram and its status in Russia? As far as one can understand, one of the main reasons is the information of the FSB that Telegram is popular among terrorists. In particular, representatives of the security services claim that this particular messenger was used in the preparation of the terrorist attack in the St. Petersburg metro, writes RIA.

The position of the authorities

“In the course of operational support of the investigation of the terrorist attack on April 3, the FSB of Russia received reliable information on the use of a suicide bomber, his accomplices and the foreign curator of the Telegram messenger to hide their criminal plans at all stages of the organization and preparation of the terrorist act,” reports the special service. At the same time, according to law enforcement officers, the terrorists use the messenger created by Pavel Durov and in the preparation of other crimes.

“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, in the course of operational-search measures to identify secret cells of international terrorist organizations, fixes the total use of internet-messengers by their members to establish a secret connection between themselves and their curators from abroad,” the FSB said.

Representatives of the special services say that, because the messenger allows you to create secret chats with a high level of encryption of the transmitted data, terrorists make extensive use of this function, keeping in touch with each other and with foreign curators.

“We use the last opportunity of communication and dialogue. I cannot say that we are ready and we will block Telegram tomorrow, but I repeat that time is limited - it is calculated in days. These days we will wait for Pavel Durov’s response, ”Zharov made this statement, probably after the FSB was told about the role of the messenger in the preparation of the attacks.

In this regard, the head of Roskomnadzor said that the creator of Telegram "consistently demonstrates legal nihilism," putting the lives of millions of people at risk. The adviser to the president on the Internet, German Klimenko, agrees with the opinion of Zharov. He said the following: “With WhatsApp, we at least have a dialogue. We talk to Google - they started paying VAT. Youtube is blocking video. There is a definite struggle, but we are in a dialogue. And Durov’s position is completely anarchic - “I will not,” and that’s all. I would like to remain a Telegram user myself, but - it will be prohibited, it will be prohibited ”.

Recently I repeated this idea on the air of the NTV and Zharov television channels: “The information inside Telegram is encrypted, and it was very difficult for any special service to penetrate it instantly if there were no keys to decrypt this information. And, accordingly, the reluctance of Mr. Durov to provide the keys to this information to all the special services of the world - as far as I know, this is so - allows terrorists to kill people using this channel of communication with impunity ”.

Answer Durov

The creator of the Telegram messenger Pavel Durov expectedly stated his disagreement with Zharov’s opinion regarding the provision of "keys for decryption": "This requirement not only contradicts Article 23 of the Russian Constitution on the right to privacy of correspondence, but also demonstrates lack of knowledge of how communication is encrypted in 2017 year. "

He claims that the encryption used in the messenger is terminal, so that only users who store keys on their devices have access to decrypt messages. In other words, the company does not have the opportunity to give special services access to Telegram private chat rooms even with a great desire to help (which, obviously, is not).

Pavel Durov believes that the “opening” of Telegram for special services or blocking a messenger will not help in the fight against terrorists and drug dealers: “A potential blocking of Telegram will not complicate the tasks of terrorists and drug dealers - dozens of other messengers built on terminal encryption will remain at their disposal (+ VPN). No country in the world has blocked all such instant messengers or all VPN services. To defeat terrorism through blocking, you will have to block the Internet. ”

The founder of Telegram also stated that the messenger support service, contrary to the opinion of some Russian officials, is actively fighting against the propaganda of terrorism. In particular, since the beginning of June more than five thousand public channels and groups that are associated with the propaganda of terrorism have been blocked in the messenger. Information on the fight against terrorists in Telegram can be obtained here .

Earlier, Durov called the authorities' intention to block Telegram on the territory of Russia as “sabotage of state interests”. “It’s paradoxical that there is no US-controlled Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger-controlled blocking on the agenda in Russia, but blocking a neutral Telegram against Russia is actively discussed. As soon as Telegram is blocked, the correspondence of Russian officials, their communication with friends and relatives, and other sensitive data via WhatsApp / Viber will be transferred to the Apple iCloud / Google Drive clouds controlled by America, ”he said.

At the same time, there is also an opinion that the creator of Telegram actively promotes his instant messenger using conflict with the authorities. PR-consultant Maria Lapuk believes that Telegram’s share of the Russian market is not very significant, therefore Pavel Durov can afford to refuse to cooperate with Roskomnadzor. Even if the messenger is blocked in the Russian Federation, the company will lose little. In her opinion, Durov’s refusal to cooperate with Roskomnadzor is a good way of public relations: “It’s easy to sacrifice a small number of subscribers in order to raise“ world ”noise about blocking Telegram in Russia and subsequently receive new loyal users.”

Does it even make sense to block?

According to information security specialists from the company Positive Technologies, Telegram is well protected, but only from hackers with low qualifications. But the more technically advanced attacker, having set himself the goal of gaining access to personal correspondence, will be able to do this with a high degree of probability.

About a year ago, the experts of the said company showed how it is possible to get access to Telegram records of almost any user. True, access to secret chats is unlikely to succeed, but there is an opportunity (or rather, was at that time) to create a new chat and communicate on behalf of the user whose account was hacked.

As practice shows (and Pavel Durov refers to this, arguing that the “discovery” of the Telegram is useless for the authorities), terrorists may not use encryption and instant messengers at all. For example, the organizers of the terrorist attacks in Paris last year used only cheap “dialers” and ordinary sms messages. One-time prepaid phones were activated by attackers immediately before use, and then exchanging messages and throwing devices away. On these devices (those of them that were discovered by the authorities), photographs and diagrams of objects that were attacked by terrorists were found.

In places that criminals used as their bases, the police found a large number of such “one-time” phones, including spare ones, which the terrorists simply did not have time to use. The report, which was compiled by the police, indicated that no trace of online correspondence was found. In other words, there is no need for criminals to work with online tools for communication. You can do much more prosaic methods that are widely available to all.


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