Russia Wants Apple to Remove Telegram from its App Store

Putin’s government is pressuring Apple to remove Telegram from its App Store as part of their continued effort to curb the use of the popular encrypted messenger.

Russia’s telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor has threatened Apple – warning that if it does not remove Telegram, the App Store itself could be blocked throughout Russia.

The threats come in between revelations that Telegram’s use in Russia remains high despite Putin’s attempts to block it. The blockade is in place because of Telegram founder Pavel Durov’s refusal to give Putin encryption keys that would allow Putin to snoop on communications.

Kremlin reports ISIS uses Telegram to plan attacks. This is a fact that sparked the widespread use of Telegram in Russia in the first place.

Telegram lost its recent court appeal but refuses to hand over the encryption keys, claiming it doesn’t have them.

Block or Be Blocked

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Roskomnadzor wants Telegram removed from the App Store and also has requested Apple to stop serving Russian Telegram users push notifications. The document reads: “To avoid possible actions by Roskomnadzor to disrupt the functioning of the above services, Apple, Inc. we ask you to inform us in the shortest possible time about further actions of the Company aimed at solving these problem issues.”

So despite Kremlin’s efforts, it appears that many Russians are still using VPNs and Telegram.

Until now, Putin’s government has blocked IP addresses used by Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services in efforts to shut down Telegram. Now, Roskomnadzor has Apple in its sights.

Why the Commotion?

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Putin has insisted that he wants access to Telegram messages for national security, but the general perception is that he wants to snoop on political opponents and dissidents as it is believed that opponents often use Telegram to communicate.

News recently broke about French authorities charging a suspect with scheming a terror attack. In that incident, Paris police cited messages sent with Telegram as evidence in the case. This has led to security experts questioning whether French authorities have a Telegram backdoor (or access to the keys directly from Telegram or via UK intelligence/14 Eyes).

If that is true, then one can’t help but wonder whether Durov is secretly working with British, French, and perhaps other government agencies, which would mean there is more to Russia’s Telegram blockade than meets the eye.

What’s Next?

Russia has given Apple a one-month ultimatum.

Russia also blocked another 50 VPN services in May to further restrict Telegram use.

Telegram Messenger Know-how and Accessibility

In the last few months Telegram Messenger, a messaging app has garnered immense popularity, especially within the cybersecurity community. It offers entirely end-to-end encrypted messaging and is available for both iOS and Android.

Telegram Founder

In the last few months Telegram messenger, a messaging app has garnered immense popularity, especially within the cybersecurity community. It offers entirely end-to-end encrypted messaging and is available for both iOS and Android. VKontakte, a Russian social network created in 2006 was what brought him to the limelight. He and his brother co-founded Telegram in 2013.

Durov currently lives in Dubai as he left Russia in 2014 because he rejected handing over information about pro-Ukrainian activists to the Russian government.

Telegram Encryption

First of all, encryption protocol is open-source, but the moment changes are made it is updated. Next, many security conscious users are left nervous as server-side encryption is wholly closed-source and proprietary.

It makes many security professionals wonder as to why Telegram uses its protocol which is not proven to be safe like other more reputed protocols.

The messages are not default encrypted which an average user may not know if so enable this option if you are going to use the app.

Telegram Banned by Russia

Russia has banned the use of Telegram as it felt necessary to crack down on things like terrorism.

The court banned Telegram, but it has not been able to block the app. Twitch and Spotify have instead faced the cut in the process. More than 19 billion IP addresses have been banned, but Telegram seems to find a way around it.

Cryptocurrency Next on Telegram’s Plan

Telegram having made a hefty $1.7 billion so far this year have the finances to invest in emerging technologies. One of their ongoing projects is to develop a blockchain themed app that will bolster the security of their service.

Best Telegram Alternatives

Telegram’s security choices are something many find difficult to digest, but thankfully there are some worthy alternatives.

The Signal app is the most popular alternative as it uses open-source whisper encryption tool. It ensures the app isn’t doing something untoward with your messages. Though not as immersive as Telegram, it holds up pretty well.

Closing

Telegram may not be the most secure messaging app, but it is a great app nonetheless. Telegram is an excellent choice if you are looking for a smooth app with encrypted communications.

For optimal security, Telegram may not be the best option for you.

Telegram adoption, however, is a step in the right direction as it’s showcasing that people are more serious about their online privacy than ever before.