This is the App Jihadists use

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Berlin-based startup Telegram is about privacy and security.  It boasts two layers of encryption and is proud of its claim to be ‘more secure’ than rival Facebook’s WhatsApp.  Users can message friends and family privately, send files and images securely, and even create ‘secret chats’ where all messages and images will self-destruct.

Telegram’s newest customer base?  ISIS terrorists.

READ MORE // FBI Wants Apple to Unlock ‘About 12 Other iPhones’

[…”It’s the new hot thing among jihadists,”…]

– Laith Alkhouri, director of Research at Flashpoint Global Partners.

ISIS wants privacy and security for very different reasons than you and I might want it for.  In response, the terrorist group is turning to an app called Telegram.  ISIS has begun using the app to broadcast message on the App’s channels, which are based on a variety of topics, most quite mundane.  It was on the ‘official’ ISIS channel that the group took responsibility for the downing of a Russian Airplane on October 31st, and used the channel to suggest that the events in Paris on November 13th would be just the beginning.

[…”A lot of people are now seeing Telegram advertised on ISIS supporter Twitter accounts,”…]

-Laith Alkhouri, director of Research at Flashpoint Global Partners.

Some experts say the ISIS channel distributes between 10 and 20 statements / videos a day.  Some terrorist groups are using Telegram to raise funds.  On other terrorist channels, users can donate and pick where the money will go, even picking the specific weapon.

Since Telegram isn’t widely known, it has been susceptible to less scrutiny than other apps might have been.

Telegram launched in 2013 by Pavel and Nikolai Durov, brothers who have since been dubbed the ‘Mark Zuckerbergs of Russia‘.  Pavel Durov create the popular Russian Social Media network Vkontakte, later fleeing Russia after refusing to hand of user’s information to the Russian government.

Telegram’s FAQ page states that profitability is not a goal for the company, saying it has “quite enough money for the time being.”  Telegram was created to fill what the Durov brothers saw as shortcomings in other social networks

[…”Big Internet companies like Facebook or Google have effectively hijacked the privacy discourse in the recent years,”…]

– Telegram

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Several startups have started-up in recent months promising secure, encrypted communication – likely a reaction to revelations made about the NSA’s crazy amount of looking into ordinary citizen’s communications and information.  Apps like Telegram lead to a debate:

How much oversight should the government actually have?  When does security trump privacy?

ISIS members often meet and message on other social networks, even as public as Twitter, before going ‘dark’, moving to more encrypted apps.  Law Enforcement agencies are grappling and struggling to keep up – both technologically and ethically.

[…”Encryption is one of many ways that an adversary, whether that’s a criminal, a terrorist, a rogue nation, one of the many ways that they might use to hide their activities…I saw dozens of times — more than that, likely — across my career that, in fact, was an obstacle for us.”…]

– former NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis

Symmetric-cryptography-key

The basics of How Encryption works

In a post on Instagram Tuesday afternoon, Pavel Durov simultaneously showed support for the loss of life in Paris and blaming the French government..

[…”I join all those who mourn deaths in the most beautiful city of the world. I think the French government is as responsible as ISIS for this, because it is their policies and carelessness which eventually led to the tragedy.”…]

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