Secure messaging platforms have long since been in the middle of ethical debates, primarily over their use. They indeed allow users a chance to attain the online security they deserve and help protect personal information from data snoopers. In contrast, it is also true that these platforms can become the hub of cybercriminal activity due to the very privacy and security they offer. A research threat intelligence report by KELA released February 1, 2023 uncovers the same significant concerns regarding Telegram.
Telegram is one of the most well-known messaging apps favored by online privacy and security enthusiast worldwide. The cloud-based encrypted platform allows users to securely exchange messages, videos, chats, and various documents, including multimedia files.
However, this security that Telegram offers is the reason it is slowly and surely morphing into a hub of cybercriminal activity. Since the platform is “allegedly built-in encryption” and allows users to create channels and big and small private chat groups, law enforcement officials often have difficulty monitoring and tracking criminal activity. Telegram also has its cryptocurrency known as TON or toncoin, where users can send exchanges directly within the chat.
Key Findings of the Report
- Hackers and cybercriminals leak and sell personal and corporate information on Telegram.
- Info-stealing hacking teams that use Telegram to sell and leak data harvested through infostealers and to organize gangs and build bots to facilitate their activities.
- Banking fraud actors that use Telegram to easily sell credit cards, checks, and other financial instruments.
- Ransomware and data extortion groups that adopt Telegram as an alternative or addition to their blogs and data leak sites, such as Lapsus$.
- Hacktivists who use Telegram to publicize information about their attacks, such as Killnet and ALtahrea Team.
- Illegal physical products are being sold via Telegram, including counterfeits, guns, drugs, and COVID-19 documents.
- Cybercriminals often use the platform to exchange information, share tips and tricks, and coordinate activities.
- Criminals share information about cybercrime techniques and distribute malicious tools such as password-stealing Trojans, keyloggers, and ransomware.
These activities have made Telegram an illicit hub of cybercriminal activities, specifically since the platform is thoroughly secured against interference from law enforcement agencies.
How is Telegram Ideal for Cybercriminal Activities?
Telegram promises to offer its users an ultimately private platform for exchanging information. The platform is cloud-based and encrypted, and although the standard chat is not encrypted, several other features help users attain their desired online anonymity. Some of the key reasons why hackers favor Telegram are as follows:
- The Secret Chat feature provides end-to-end encryption so only the sender and receiver can read the messages.
- Users can register accounts without revealing personal information, making setting up fake identities easy.
- The platform’s anonymity ensures law enforcement agencies can’t track down anyone conducting illicit activities.
- It is a Fragment blockchain platform that allows users to buy anonymous numbers with Toncoins and sign up for Telegram without a SIM card.
While Telegram has made these features to honor the privacy and security of its users, hackers are exploiting them to conduct cybercrime.
The use of online privacy apps falls in a grey area specifically due to the ever-present cybercriminals prowling the internet. Similar is the case with Telegram. While the app promises a secure platform for information exchange, its privacy and security has become a fervent means of cybercriminal activities.