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Is Telegram still foolproof?

23 August 2017 10:30 (UTC+04:00)
Is Telegram still foolproof?

By Trend

Telegram, which, according to the Iranian authorities, is the most popular messaging app in Iran, has recently faced some challenges in the country.

It should be noted that, same authorities have estimated that Russian-developed app is used by almost 40 million Iranians, which totals to 80.5 percent of its overall users.

The Islamic Republic officials, threatening with blocking the app, have repeatedly demanded the transfer of Telegram servers to Iran, which would enable them to control the app and access users’ private data.

Last month, Iran’s former Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Mahmoud Vaezi had announced that Telegram already transferred some of its servers into the country. That claim was swiftly denied by the encrypted application's founder and Telegram CEO – Pavel Durov.

Nonetheless, Durov had confirmed that the app has started using content delivery networks (CDNs) in the country.

"In order to speed up the download in different regions, Telegram uses its own distributed servers or CDNs, depending on the country."

According to the company, CDNs are not a part of the Telegram’s main cloud. They are used only for caching popular public media from the massive channels. App users’ private data is and will not be stored on the CDNs.

"Moving CDNs closer to the user can reduce the cost and improve the responsiveness of the app. Nonetheless, it is impossible to say whether Telegram is doing this for cost reduction or due to the pressure from the Iranian government," Mehdi Yahyanejad, a research scientist at the University of Southern California, told Trend.

"Considering that a large portion of Telegram's users are in Iran, the company, by enforcing the Iranian law and accepting the surveillance regime, might get tempted to make money from them. This is a legitimate concern and the Telegram has to be very transparent about its activities and plans," added Yahyanejad, who is also the founder of Net Freedom Pioneers, as well as Balatarin (similar to a Reddit) social news site in Persian.

While responding to the question of whether the Iranian authorities can control the content and monitor the activities of the Iranian users via CDNs, he said that, "depending on the CDNs’ configuration, the Iranian government may gain access to what Iranian users are reading or what Telegram channels they have subscribed to."

"Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify if Telegram is safe or not, which means that, for sensitive communications, it is better to use applications such as Signal," the cyber security expert added.

"At the moment Signal messenger is the safest, due to fact that its transparency and security reviews conducted by the digital safety community."

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