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Telegram chat app founder claims Feds offered backdoor bribe

Pavel Durov flings Twitter dooky at rivals Signal, says US govt funds their encryption

The founder of chat app Telegram has publicly claimed that feds pressured the company to weaken its encryption or install a backdoor.

"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 said on Twitter. "It would be naive to think you can run an independent/secure cryptoapp based in the US," he added.

Durov's comments follow earlier unsubstantiated claims that arch-rival Signal was compromised.

"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," Durov claimed.

Sections of the infosec community have poured scorn on Durov's attempts to question the security of a rival chat app. "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," said Martijn Grooten, editor of Virus Bulletin and self-described occasional security researcher.

Pavel Durov founded VKontakte (VK), Russia's answer to Facebook, before leaving the country and setting up Telegram with his brother Nikolai. Telegram offers Snapchat-style self-destruct timers for encrypted messages, group chats, channels and messaging. Back in November Telegram blocked some "public" Daesh-related channels.

Around the same time independent security experts derided the home-brewed crypto used to build Telegram, warning it was prone to metadata leakage, among other issues. Security experts continue to be cautious about Telegram's claims to offer superior chat app security.

NSA contractor turned leaker Edward Snowden said: "Run by people with good intentions. Better than nothing, but unsafe default settings make it dangerous for non-experts to use." ®

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