The CEO and founder of secure messaging app maker Telegram said US agencies wanted his company to weaken its encryption or install a backdoor, as he hit out at rival Signal.
On Twitter, Pavel Durov (pictured) said his team visited the US for one week in 2016, during which two attempts were made to bribe his company’s developers by US agencies while the FBI put pressure on him.
During our team’s 1-week visit to the US last year we had two attempts to bribe our devs by US agencies + pressure on me from the FBI.
— Pavel Durov (@durov) June 11, 2017
“It would be naive to think you can run an independent/secure cryptoapp based in the US,” he said in another tweet.
The claims were made a few days after the Telegram chief hit out at rival messenging system Signal, stating: “The encryption of Signal (=WhatsApp, FB) was funded by the US Government. I predict a backdoor will be found there within 5 years from now.”
WhatsApp uses the Signal encryption protocol, which relies on the exchange of unique security keys verified between users to guarantee communications cannot be intercepted. Facebook Messenger offers the protocol for optional “secret conversations”, as does Google Allo.
The protocol was developed by Open Whisper Systems and was first introduced in the open source TextSecure app, which later became Signal.
Some have questioned the vailidity of Durov’s claim. Martijn Grooten, editor of Virus Bulletin tweeted: “Not sure what’s worse here: the backdoor nonsense, or the fact that it’s like the Pepsi CEO claiming that Coca Cola is deliberately poison.”
Security experts say users should be wary when assessing just how secure the Telegram app is, and the service also faced scrutiny for enabling terrorists to communicate.
Edward Snowden – a former US National Security Agency contractor who in 2013 leaked classified documents allegedly revealing widespread snooping by US authorities – recently tweeted: “Run by people with good intentions. Better than nothing, but unsafe default settings make it dangerous for non-experts to use.”
Durov has always been very vocal about his thoughts. In a blog post in April, he said unlike Telegram, services like WhatsApp are not blocked in countries including China, Saudi Arabia and Iran because the app maker and its parent company Facebook “are eager to trade user trust for an increased market share.”
“Their claim that WhatsApp and third parties can’t read or listen to your WhatsApp messages and calls – is completely false,” he added.