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.
(Reuters) – A Russian court on Friday ordered that access to the Telegram messenger service should be blocked in Russia, Russian news agencies reported, heralding communication disruption for scores of users – including government officials. The decision came a week after Russias state communication watchdog filed a lawsuit to limit access to Telegram messaging app following the companys refusal to give Russian state security services access to its users messages. With more than 200 million users worldwide, the mobile messaging app allows users to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties, including government authorities. Pavel Durov, founder of the Telegram, had repeatedly said his company would not hand over encryption keys to Russian authorities as it does not share confidential user data with anyone. In Russia, Telegram is increasingly popular as an app for mobile devices and desktops – not only among ordinary people but is widely used by authorities. The Kremlin uses Telegram to coordinate timings of regular conference calls with Vladimir Putins spokesman, while many government officials use the messenger to communicate with media. When Reuters asked a person in the Russian government on how they would operate without access to Telegram, the person, who asked not be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, replied by sending a screenshot of his mobile phone with an open VPN app. Users in Russia actively use virtual private networks, or VPNs, and other technologies, known as anonymisers, that allow people to get around restrictions that Russian authorities periodically impose on internet resources. Telegram became the second global network after LinkedIn to be blocked in Russia. LinkedIn was blocked in 2016 when a court found the firm guilty of violating a law that requires companies holding Russian citizens data to store it on servers on Russian soil. The ban on using Telegram in Russia comes at a time when the company is undertaking the worlds biggest initial coin offering – a private sale of tokens which could be traded as an alternative currency, similar to bitcoin or Ethereum. The company has so far raised $1.7 billion in pre-sales via the offering, according to media reports.
A Russian court has ruled that messaging app Telegram must be blocked in the country. The ruling follows months of battles between Telegram and Roskomnadzor, Russias telecommunications watchdog. Russias Federal Security Service (FSB) wants to access user data from Telegram through the sharing of encryption keys, but Telegram has refused to comply even after a court ruling. Russian news agency Tass reports that the messaging service will be blocked immediately following the latest court ruling, and the ban will be in place until Telegram provides decryption keys to the FSB. Its not clear how immediate the ban will be, though. The Financial Times reports that the ban will likely take place once Telegram has exhausted the appeals process over the next month. Russia implemented strict anti-terrorism laws in 2016, which required messaging services to provide authorities with the ability to decrypt messages. Telegram has been challenging these laws. Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov has now responded to the ban with a message of defiance on the service. At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales, says Durov. Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed. Update April 13th, 8AM ET: Telegram statement added to the article.
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.
However, it's unclear when the ban will take effect. Russian authorities have been threatening to ban Telegram since 2017 due to its developers' repeated refusal to give them access to users' data. Well, they can soon make good on that threat now that a Moscow court has officially issued a ban on the secure messaging application. It all started when KGB successor Federal Security Service (FSB) demanded access to Telegram's decryption keys last year. FSB wants those keys so it can read user messages, apparently as part of its anti-terror measures. It's no secret that Telegram has a terrorist problem due to the emphasis it places on user privacy -- in fact, the company has been blocking ISIS channels for years, though new ones continue to pop up. But it's also because of how much Telegram values security and privacy that its founder, Pavel Durov, wouldn't budge no matter hard the agency pushed. While his company eventually agreed to register with the Russian government as an information distributor that officially operates within the country, Durov refuses to comply with any request that can compromise user data. As a result, Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor asked the court to ban the app. According to Russian news agency Tass, the ban will take effect immediately. However, Financial Times says the ban will likely come into effect after Telegram has exhausted all its appeals next month, and Roskomnadzor can only order internet providers to block Russian users' access to the application if the company continues to lose in court.