Meet the app experts say ISIS used to send secret messages

isis uses telegram app encrypted messages
The notable customers page of startups is often riddled with celebrity names, big brands, or other cultural thought leaders. Every once in awhile, however, having great technology attracts some rather despicable attention, which is what happened to Telegram, a free Android, iOS, Mac/Windows, and Web app whose “Secret Chat” function was apparently utilized by terrorists associated with extremist group ISIS, using it to not only communicate but to also distribute documents like ISIS’ magazine, Dabiq. The function in question gives users the opportunity to send end-to-end encrypted messages, which theoretically means that only the senders and the receivers can read them. But as it turns out, when the whole world is against you, even supposedly secure, end-to-end encryption won’t protect you.

As Motherboard originally reported, a Wednesday blog post from operational security expert “the Grugq” noted a number of issues with Telegram that may have rendered it relatively insecure when used by terrorists. “Telegram is error-prone, has wonky homebrew encryption, leaks voluminous metadata, steals the address book, and is now known as a terrorist hangout. I couldn’t possibly think of a worse combination for a safe messenger,” he commented. And of course, it doesn’t help that Telegram is now on ISIS’ case as well.

Upon learning that their service was being used for more insidious purposes, the messaging app blocked 78 ISIS-related channels that operated in 12 languages, and added that the company was “disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda.” The company also has plans to implement tools that make it “easier … for our users to report objectionable public content in the upcoming update of Telegram this week.”

But even without these (still much needed) updates, the Grugq points out that ISIS has overestimated their own technical prowess — “Users will make security mistakes and register with their personal mobile numbers,” said the expert, and as a recent tweeted of an ISIS forum thread reveals, members had indeed signed up for the service with their far more traceable, far less secure, individual cell numbers.

While Telegram initially defended its accessibility to groups like ISIS, with Russian founder Pavel Durov saying in September, “I don’t think we should feel guilty about this. I still think we’re doing the right thing — protecting our users privacy,” the company is certainly facing increased pressure to crack down on terrorism in light of recent attacks.

The app currently reports some 12 billion messages sent every day by their 60 million users, some of whom are allegedly members of terrorist groups.


Apple’s unsafe Mac App Store is simply inexcusable

Multiple reports have indicated top apps in the Mac App Store have been stealing sensitive data right. Not only did Apple fail to properly vet them, it ignored warnings from security researchers for weeks. Is a safe app store too much to…

Updating to Apple’s iOS 12 will make your iPhone a whole lot smarter

iOS 12, the latest version of Apple’s iOS, is officially here. We took it for a spin to check out its new noteworthy features, and if it truly changes our smartphone habits for the better.
Social Media

Facebook is paying cash rewards if you find vulnerabilities in third-party apps

As part of efforts to put the Cambridge Analytica scandal and related issues behind it, Facebook said this week it's expanding its bug bounty program to include third-party apps and websites that could potentially misuse its data.

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.
Social Media

Looking to officially rid your inbox of Facebook messages? Here's how

Deleting messages from Facebook Messenger is almost as easy as scrolling through your News Feed. Here, we show you how to delete an entire conversation or a single message, both of which take seconds.

10 viral video celebrities from the past and where they are now

Ever wonder what happened to William Hung after his less-than-stellar American Idol audition? We take a look at 10 of the most popular viral video celebrities and see what they are up to today.
Social Media

As Twitter and Facebook growth slows, Pinterest hits 250 million users

Pinterest is now home to 250 million active users, despite a pattern of slowed growth and even reduced numbers among the latest reports from other networks. Pinterest also now boasts more than 175 billion pins.
Social Media

Facebook expands fact-checking net to try to catch doctored photos and videos

Facebook is now fact-checking images and video along with articles, using third-party organizations. New A.I. helps flag potential fakes for human review, but user flags and comments still help recognize what content might not be accurate.
Social Media

New to Snapchat? Follow our guide and go from newbie to pro

Whether you're a Snapchat addict or a newbie, our detailed Snapchat guide will help you become a pro in no time. Find out how to get started, spice up your snaps, chat, send money, and carry out a host of other useful actions.
Social Media

How to run a free background check

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for carrying out a background check, and not all of them are creepy. Here are several methods that allow you to run a thorough background check on someone online, whether you need to vet a potential…
Social Media

Twitter makes it easier to find and watch live broadcasts

Twitter is making further efforts to promote livestreams and broadcasts on its service. Rolling out globally, live video broadcasts from accounts that you follow will now appear at the top of your timeline.

Instagram’s shopping stickers for businesses see wide rollout

As the Stories format continues to grow, Instagram is allowing users to shop the items inside a Stories photo or video. Instagram recently expanded stickers that let people shop inside a Story by tapping on the sticker.
Social Media

A lot less clutter! Twitter relaunches purely chronological timeline

If you still miss the reverse-chronological timeline that Twitter ditched two years ago and you're fed up with all of the extra algorithmic tweets appearing in your feed, there's now a way to return it to how it used to be.
Smart Home

Restaurants may soon have chefs who know all about you before you walk in the door

At Seattle’s Addo, chef Eric Rivera gives pop-up-style restaurants a permanent home, and he leverages everything from Instagram to a ticketing service to bring in customers.