Most of us know what Facebook Messenger and Twitter are, and many also use WhatsApp as well as Signal, but surprisingly little has been said about the messaging exchange environment, Telegram.
The Telegram was founded on 14 August 2013 and has gathered more than 500 million users to date. It apparently added 25 million users in just a few days in January 2021.
The creators of the VKontake environment, the brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov created this environment, which enables encrypted conversations, audio speech and video messages.
Nikolai Durov is the creator of the MTProto protocol on which the application is based; Pavel Durov is responsible for the financial side and infrastructure in Telegram.
The application has gained attention for its usability, which is suitable for the exchange and coordination of all kinds of suspicious activities. Much has been written about its use by Daesh and other far-right extremist groups. It has also been used for the spread of child pornography as well as all types of suspicious activities.
Recently, Telegram has had significant attention as the main channel of communication during the unrest in Belarus. In November, The Quardian wrote a long story about how Telegram’s Nexta Live channel, with around 2 million followers, has become a central coordinator in leading riots.
The Durov brothers have repeatedly stated to the public that the platform is and will remain secure, and will not share its information with any country, regardless of whether this information is being used negatively in some cases.
Consequently, the use of Telegram is prohibited or restricted in many countries. For example, China, Belarus and Thailand have done so. Pakistan, Indonesia, India, as well as the United States, for example, have considered restricting or partially blocking access. The restrictions originally imposed have since been lifted by, for example, Azerbaijan and, oddly enough, Russia.
There have been several data leaks with the Telegram over the years. In 2013, a security vulnerability was discovered that allowed access to and exchange of encryption security keys; in 2016, Iranian hackers allegedly obtained the personal information of 15 million Iranian users. In March 2020, the personal data and telephone numbers of 42 million users were leaked, and in September of the same year, a large-scale successful phishing operation in the Telegram was reported against the Iranian government.
In addition to the chat and messaging functions, the Telegram has also started to gain popularity with channel solutions, where information can be transmitted unilaterally but channel followers do not have the opportunity to provide feedback. Russian-language portals, for example, have begun to use this option. In addition, Telegram actively uses bots that enable automatic information processing, which can be linked to money transfer options. This opportunity has been used, for example, to sell stolen information piece by piece at a time. For example, this way you can buy Facebook users’ stolen phone numbers.
In addition, Telegram has a number of other exciting solutions, from the news reading section, the Internet of Things (IoT) interface, to logging in to other websites via Telegram and real-time personal identification.
Is it worth using Telegram?
Although Telegram has gained the reputation of being a secure and encrypted communication channel, it is actually a moderately secure solution that does not replace Signal.
At the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the flaws and deficiencies of Telegram have been written about several times.
The first thing to point out is that chats in this application are not encrypted by default, but must be set each time. In addition, group and channel information is not encrypted enough.
The Telegram, like many other applications, wants to access and take possession of contact information and Meta data.
The information that travels through communications is located on Telegram’s servers and is accessible to the company’s creators and employees.
The last thing to think about is Telegram’s financing model and the use of data. Data retention has been one of Telegram’s marketing messages, but as with other platforms, it has eventually been exchanged for money.