Edward Snowden Warns: Whatever You Do, Don’t Use Telegram Messenger App


Ex-NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has raised further awareness of the risks encountered when using messaging applications. In the past, Snowden has been critical of Skype, where the company gave over Skype chats to the NSA.

In his latest round of Tweets, Snowden has questioned the Telegram app, in the context of the current Iranian political unrest. In his first tweet, he wondered why Telegram is claiming to provide secure services when in fact its public channels are censorable and unsafe.

He then goes on to talk about the questions surrounding the use of Telegram, and how the channel works.

Over 40 million people in Iran use the Telegram app. Snowden says “public channels” are important news sources for Iranians who lack the tech skills that would otherwise keep them safe from prying Big Brother eyes. However, those currently using the app are unsafe and can easily be tracked by the Iranian government for political advantages.

Just prior to New Years Eve, Telegram had shut down a channel that was calling for “violent protests” against the Iranian government. Iranian telecom minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, known on Twitter as MJ Azari, had tweeted just before its shutdown that Telegram was “encouraging hateful conduct” and social unrest. In his tweet, he encouraged Telegram to stop the behaviour.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov responded, supporting Jahromi, saying if proven, the channel will be blocked regardless of its political affiliation. Two hours later, the CEO gave a suspension order.

Edward Snowden questioned the CEO’s decision saying that Telegram’s move was akin to a “monopoly position” to keep its “ecosystem” alive.

Snowden reminded Durov of what forced him from Russia, when Russian domestic intelligence (FSB) attacked the app in September. At the time, Durov received a letter from the FSB, which he published on the Russian equivalent to Facebook that he also founded but no longer controls. The letter stated that Russian law dictates all keys be handed over to the government for decryption of any communications transmitted over Telegram.

In Iran, due to the distrust of American messaging apps, Telegram is one of the most downloaded apps on Android. For Iranians, a Russian connection is safer than Mark Zuckerberg’s offer. But Snowden warned Telegram is less safe than WhatsApp because of its storage based in the cloud, allowing third party access.

He advised Telegram’s Durov to design features that will remain accessible even if blocked by authoritarian regimes. He encouraged the conversion of all Iranian Telegram accounts to two-factor authentication and to teach the users to engage with Tor bridges as another form of protection.

He based his suggestions on the acknowledgment of governments becoming more authoritarian in their reach over users on messaging apps and the Internet. Naming Russia, China and Iran as some of the more overreaching governments, Snowden recommended using Signal, an encrypted messaging app he says he uses every day.

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  1. This is Kristina Flamer again. I don’t know if you received the three other emails I’ve sent.
    I am now being blocked from applying to jobs. Is there anyway you can investigate?

    I’m on a new computer at the shelter and it is preventing the hacking into my computer use is stopping from doing anything.

    This is another new email address because the old one is hacked.
    I hope this gets through. This is out of control…my family and I are in a shelter trying to find housing and a job.
    Phone is also hacked and I’m unable to use it.


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