Reuters and the Wall Street Journal report that mobile messaging service Telegram has emerged as an important promotional and recruitment platform for the Islamic State. The news comes hot on the heels of the Paris bloodshed, which left 129 people dead.
Actually, the Islamic State seems to be among the most technologically sophisticated extremist groups. The Wall Street Journal has knowledge of an eight-minute video that discusses the surveillance capabilities of hostile governments and how phones can be tracked.
In January, a follower known online as al-Khabir al-Taqni, who identifies himself as a “technical expert,” provided would-be fighters with a list of what he determined were the safest encrypted communications systems available.
“Through this, we can break one of the strongest weapons of the Crusader governments in spying on and tracking the mujahedeen and targeting them with aircraft,” the author said, referring to the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State.
Islamic State has put together a list of 33 messaging applications that rate as unsafe, moderately safe, safe, and safest. The list was extracted and verified by the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors and tracks radical groups online.
As you can see from the above image, Telegram is at the top of the list of apps with “safe” ratings, followed by Wickr, Threema, and Surespot. iMessage, despite its end-to-end encryption (Apple’s claim) found its place only in the middle of the “moderately safe” apps. Interestingly, we find Facebook Messenger closing the same list.
Telegram has captured the attention of authorities, as apparently the Islamic State has made Telegram its media mouthpiece in the face of increasingly aggressive efforts to block the group from Twitter and other mainstream social-media platforms, says Reuters.
Since its launch in 2013, Telegram has grown its user base to 60 million, equal to the total number of customers of all the other highly encrypted services available.
The fact that terrorists are allegedly using encrypted apps such as Telegram to communicate with one another is going to open a new debate about security versus privacy, suggests Mike Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA.
Telegram quickly responded to the allegations and launched its own investigation into the matter. Today, VentureBeat spotted the following public message:
“We were disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda,” Telegram wrote today in a publicly visible post in the Telegram app. “We are carefully reviewing all reports sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and are taking appropriate action to block such channels. As a result, this week alone we blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages.”