Russian Federation blocks Telegram app over security concerns

Telegram messenger logo on a tablet screen

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A district court in Moscow has ordered access to popular internet messenger Telegram to be blocked after the company repeatedly refused to hand over encryption keys to its messages to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). The gist of it is that Russia's telecommunications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, wants the company to hand over its encryption keys to access user data.

The decision is effective immediately and will remain in force until Telegram developers provide the Russian Federal Security Service or FSB with an encryption key, she stated.

Roskomnadzor claimed that Telegram was not entirely honest in these statements, as some unnamed experts said it is still possible to give the security services some keys allowing secret messages to be decoded.

In September a year ago, the FSB security service demanded encryption keys, Mr Durov said, prompting a formal complaint when the request was rejected.

After Friday's ruling, Alexander Zharov, the head of Roskomnadzor, said he would not say the "exact time when the block on Telegram will begin", adding that it would be "soon".

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Certain implementations of Telegram, such as the mobile app, are more hard to cut off than others.

"Threats to block Telegram unless it gives up private data of its users won't bear fruit". He added, however, that he still can not guarantee that Telegram users will retain access to the messenger without using VPNs.

Durov, the Telegram founder, posted about the ruling on his VKontakte page, Russia's largest social network. The hearing lasted 18 minutes and was boycotted by Telegram's lawyers in protest of the hurried process.

Telegram's lawyer has dubbed the attempt to block the app "groundless", adding: "The FSB's requirements to provide access to private conversations of users are unconstitutional, baseless, which can not be fulfilled technically and legally". Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram Messenger, has confirmed that his company will not create a backchannel for government authorities to snoop on user messages. "What matters most is privacy which is not for sale and more to that human rights should not be compromised out of greed or fear". Providers will block the app starting from April 16. An irony not lost on officials is that they too use Telegram for communication purposes, and that includes President Putin's own press office.

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