Telegram: A Super App with Features Al Capone Might Have Liked

November 1, 2023

When I mention in my law enforcement lectures that Telegram, a frisky encrypted super app for thumb typers, is “off the radar” for some analysts, I get more than a few blank looks. Consider this: The “special conflict” or whatever some in the Land of Tolstoy call it, pivots on Telegram. And why not? It allows encrypted messages, both public and private. A safety conscious user can include an image or a video snippet and post it to the Musky service with a couple of taps. Those under attack can disseminate location data to a mailing list of Telegram contacts. The app makes it possible to pay for “stuff,” often that stuff is CSAM or information about where to pick up an order containing contraband.

11 1 soldiiers foxhole

The soldier with the mobile phone says, “Hey, this hot content video content is great on Telegram.” The other soldier says, “Jump to the Spies-R-Us service. I will give you the coordinates for the drone assault. Also, order some noodle latkes to Checkpoint Grhriba at 1800 hours.” Thanks, MidJourney. WW2 cartoonists would be proud of you.

Pivot to the Israel Hamas war. Yep, Telegram is in use. Civilians, war fighters, even those in prison with mobile devices are Telegramming away. The Russian brothers who created the original app may not have anticipated its utility in war zones.

My research team has noted that some Clear Web sites discuss slippery subjects like carding. Then the “buy now” or similar action points to a Telegram “location.” What about the Dark Web? Telegram makes it possible to do “Dark Web things” without the risk and hassle of operating a Dark Web site or service. Pretty innovative, right? And what about that Dark Web traffic? Our analysis suggests that one will find Dark Web bots, law enforcement from numerous countries, and a modest number of human bad actors who cannot or have not embraced Telegram.

Now the super app is getting some enhancements, if the information in Gadgets360 article is accurate. “Telegram Update Brings Advanced Reply Options, Link Preview Customizations, Account Colors, More.” Enhancements include:

Replying to a message from one chat to another. Will this be useful for certain extremist users doing fund raising or recruiting?

  • Customize shared links. Will this be useful to CSAM purveyors?
  • Fast forward and rewind videos in Telegram messages. Winner for some video content vendors.
  • Telegram also has a special feature. Some Telegram users pay for these services. Yep, money. Subscription money.

And the encryption thing? Reasonably good. Possibly less open than the UK Covid information allegedly from WhatsApp.

Stephen E Arnold, November 1, 2023


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