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Telegram ordered to hand over user encryption keys by Russian authorities

Telegram facing troubles in Russia as of March 2018, forced to hand over user encryption keys to the local authorities
Telegram facing troubles in Russia
Since Vladimir Putin will be in charge for a few more years, it looks like Telegram might end up being blocked in Russia. A set of laws introduced back in 2016 required Telegram to give the government a way to decrypt all user conversations, and they received a fine of US$14,000 for failing to do so. Now, Telegram users in Russia should prepare for the worst.

Telegram is a very popular cloud-based instant messaging service, well known for the user security and privacy it provides. The client apps are available for Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, and Windows. Sadly, it seems that those over 9.5 million Russian users might soon be forced to find another similar product unless they have nothing against being spied on by the Federal Security Service (KGB's successor, often shortened as "FSB" instead of "FSS").

According to a recent report by Bloomberg, Telegram received a US$14,000 fine for not sharing its encryption keys, as they were asked back in 2017. Now, they have two weeks at their disposal to comply with the requirements of the FSB. Pavel Durov, Telegram's founder, published the following on Twitter: "Threats to block Telegram unless it gives up private data of its users won’t bear fruit. Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy."

The story started in 2016, when Vladimir Putin signed a set of laws allegedly for fighting terrorism. These laws also included a requirement for messaging services to provide the authorities the means to decrypt the messages sent and received by the users of these services. While the FSB claims that a court order would still be needed to use the encryption keys for decrypting the messages sent/received by a certain individual, the truth might be different.

"The FSB’s argument that encryption keys can’t be considered private information defended by the Constitution is cunning. It’s like saying, ‘I’ve got a password from your email, but I don’t control your email, I just have the possibility to control," said Telegram's lawyer to the press.

Since Telegram plans to appeal the ruling of the Supreme Court Judge, this whole encryption saga might take at least a few months to be over. However, by looking at Russia's actions in the past decade, we can safely assume that President Putin will not leave such a valuable resource for activists (and terrorists as well, to be honest) untouched. How will he touch it and how big will be the impact on the end users, these are two things that we will probably discover by the end of the summer.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 03 > Telegram ordered to hand over user encryption keys by Russian authorities
Codrut Nistor, 2018-03-20 (Update: 2018-03-20)
Codrut Nistor
Codrut Nistor - News Editor
Although I have been writing about new software and hardware for almost a decade, I consider myself to be old school. I always enjoy listening to music on CD or tape instead of digital files and I will not even get into the touchscreen vs physical keys debate. However, I also enjoy new technology, as I now have the chance to take a look at the future every day. I joined the Notebookcheck crew back in 2013 and I have no plans to leave the ship anytime soon.