Telegram playing cat-and-mouse game trying to curb extremeists accounts

News by Roi Perez

Berlin-based secure communications app Telegram found to be playing cat-and-mouse game in a bid to curb extremists accounts.

Telegram, the messaging app which allows for on-the-fly secret encrypted messages to be sent from mobile phones, seems to be playing a game of cat-and-mouse with jihadis, removing any accounts they find which are being used to promote extremist behaviour.

In early October, the BBC reported that just as Telegram announced its ‘Channels' feature, the extremist group IS had created its own, and the channel quickly gained a following of around 4,500 people.

Any ‘Channel' that gains media attention quickly gets removed, once another seems to popup, it gets announced on IS's Twitter channels and the cycle starts again.

The use of these ‘Channels' would presumably allow for easy broadcasting of messages to any supporters from around the world. According to the BBC, the same message would then appear on Twitter a few minutes later.

Based in Berlin and operating under the guise of being a “faster and more secure” version of WhatsApp, the app boasts two layers of encryption and has a range of features which allow for ‘self-destructing' media which can't be sent on, for example.

Presumably reacting to the Snowden revelations, where the NSA was found to be listening in to communications in the US and Europe en-masse, several tech companies have decided to release secure communication apps, hoping to break into the mainstream.

But now there's a debate: How much oversight should the government have? And how much privacy can be expected while still ensuring security? And law enforcement agencies are grappling with the trend.

The row over encryption and backdoors has once again been brought into the spotlight, showing that criminals do use encrypted communications to talk to each other in the field, encryption has come under fire - according to The Intercept, citing French newspaper Le Monde, communications about the atrocity in Paris last Friday were sent using bog-standard SMS text messages.

Speaking to CNNMoney, former NSA deputy director Chris Inglis said, "Encryption is one of many ways that an adversary, whether that's a criminal, a terrorist, a rogue nation, might use to hide their activities. I saw dozens of times - more than that, likely - across my career that, in fact, was an obstacle for us."

Dwayne Melancon, CTO of Tripwire commented - “The genie is out of the bottle on encryption, and recent proposals to outlaw it will not stop criminals. In fact, a ban is likely to have the opposite effect; encryption protects electronic financial transactions, private Internet communication and much of our national critical infrastructure. Encryption is so essential to the ability to communicate securely over the Internet that it is a fundamental requirement in a wide range of government regulations designed to protect sensitive data it from hackers, nation state attackers and others with malicious intentions. Anything we do to restrict or weaken encryption would weaken the mechanisms we use to secure the Internet.”

“The reality is that declaring encryption to be illegal won't stop people from using it. All crime is illegal and every day in the news we see the extraordinary lengths people go to in order to get around these restrictions. Furthermore, a ban on encryption would be completely ineffective at improving national security unless other nations follow suit, and I don't see that happening any time soon. Instead, the collateral damage an encryption ban could inflict on the nation's economy and on consumer privacy is hard to estimate.”


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