This week saw many Silicon Valley firms moving to limit the reach of Russia Today and Sputnik news organisations as the invasion of Ukraine by Russia continues unabated.
These moves were made to limit the reach of Russian propaganda but it seems that Telegram may provide a haven for those looking to sow discord online.
This is according to Check Point Research which has noticed a surge in the amount of users on Telegram following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The cybersecurity researchers note that there was a six-fold increase in the number of Telegram groups centred around the invasion.
Of concern is that Check Point Research reports that 71 percent of groups it observed were posting flash news of unedited and unverified information. Even more worrying is that 21 percent of the groups it observed were coordinating cyber attacks on Russia.
“Telegram has become a digital forefront of the conflict, where people are choosing sides online. We’re seeing people from all corners of the world organising themselves and resources to support either Russia or Ukraine. Some groups are coordinating cyber attacks to target Russia. Other groups are serving as information and news hubs to report a raw side of the war. And other groups are requesting funds to either support Ukraine or commit fraud,” head of products vulnerabilities research at Check Point Software, Oded Vanunu, wrote in a press release.
While Telegram has allowed misinformation to flourish on its platform throughout the pandemic it appears that the conflict in the North is where it draws the line.
According to a report from Reuters, Telegram founder Pavel Durov, said they may consider partially or fully restricting the operation of some channels.
“We all wish for an immediate end to the conflict. In these troubled times, we find consolation in the fact that our work at Telegram helps people get quick access to critical information – from verified official statements to airstrike alerts that bring civilians to safety. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this war,” Telegram wrote in an update on its official account.
Check Point Research has also outlined a number of characteristics it has seen from malicious groups. The firm warns users to be wary of groups that are:
- Very active sending thousands of messages all day everyday
- Reporting unedited uncensored and unverified feeds from war zones
- Sharing unverified and possible misinformation
- Asking for cryptocurrency donations
- Have tens of thousands of users that behave suspciously
This is not to say that all Telegram groups are malicious. Users should keep their wits about them though and anything that doesn’t sit right with you should be a sign to leave.