Russian authorities are demanding a universal key. Telegram says it doesnt exist. A Russian court has paved the way for the government to block the Telegram messaging app over its creators' failure to provide authorities with access to users' encrypted messages, it was widely reported on Friday. Russia's state communications watchdog sought the ban last Friday in a lawsuit that asked the court for the authority to block the app's use in Russian territories. The watchdog said Russian authorities needed the ability to decrypt messages sent by potential terrorists and that Telegram had missed an April 4 deadline to turn over keys that would make that possible. At today's hearing, which was scheduled only 24 hours earlier, the court granted the request after just 18 minutes of deliberation, The New York Times reported. Telegram lawyers skipped the hearing in protest. The ruling came a month after telegram lost a lawsuit it filed against Russia's secretive security agency, the FSB, which has said Telegram is the messenger of choice for "international terrorist organizations in Russia." In 2016, the Kremlin supported a sweeping anti-terrorism law that required authorities to be given backdoor access to encrypted applications. Telegram, which says it has 200 million users, is widely used by lawyers, reporters, government officials, and others. The FSB says telegram was also used by a suicide bomber who last year killed 15 people on a subway in St. Petersburg. Telegram officials have long said their app is developed in a way that makes it impossible to provide authorities with a universal key that decrypts end-user messages. In an online statement Friday, Telegram founder Pavel Durov continued to resist Russia's demands, saying the government lacked the means to punish his company for its noncompliance. "At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales," Durov, a Russian who fled the country in 2014, wrote. "Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed." Friday's ruling clears the way for Russian communications regulators to order the country's ISPs to block the Telegram protocol or Telegram servers on their networks. While it might be possible for individuals to use virtual private networks for the Tor anonymity service to bypass such a move, the blocks would likely cause a major disruption for most Telegram users in that country. Telegram has announced its intention to launch a peer-to-peer technology, but it remains unclear if it would be enough to bypass a Russian ban. The NYT said the ban will put the Kremlin in a slightly awkward position, because many inside the government, including those in President Vladimir Putin's press office, use Telegram. Russia's Foreign Ministry has announced that it's moving to the Viber messaging app, the NYT reported, citing the Interfax news agency.
A Russian court has ordered a block on access to the Telegram messaging app — with the block coming into force immediately, according to the BBC. The messaging platform has been under pressure to hand over encryption keys to Russian authorities so they can access user data — which they claim is needed for counterterrorism purposes — but has so far refused. However late last month Telegram lost a bid before the Supreme Court to block security services from getting access to users data, though it said it planned to appeal. The court gave it 15 days to hand over the encryption keys. Again it refused. So last week Russias state communication watchdog filed a lawsuit to limit access to the service — and a court in Moscow has now granted the block. In a tweet responding to the news, founder Pavel Durov wrote: Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed. Durov is himself Russian but has lived in exile since 2014 after claiming hed been forced to hand control of his former social networking company, vk, to allies of Russian president Vladimir Putin — also as a result of refusing to hand user data to authorities. In a longer post on his Telegram channel today, Durov adds: The power that local governments have over IT corporations is based on money. At any given moment, a government can crash their stocks by threatening to block revenue streams from its markets and thus force these companies to do strange things (remember how last year Apple moved iCloud servers to China). At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales. Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed. Telegrams service has faced temporary blocks in Iran — over content being spread on the platform that the regime dislikes. Last summer the Indonesian government also used blocks to wring content-related concessions out of Telegram. But it remains to be seen whether the company will agree to any concessions to get the Russian block removed. Durovs first response suggests it has no intention of backing down over encryption. Telegrams lawyer, Pavel Chikov, has also described the move by the Russian authorities as unconstitutional — and claimed it cannot be fulfilled technically and legally. Meanwhile, the messaging platform announced last month it now has more than 200 million monthly active users globally. And while Durov claims not to care about money he is in the midst of a billion dollar ICO, raising money via a token sale to develop a crypto currency and blockchain platform. Reuters suggests some Russians will seek to circumvent the block via the use of VPN technology.