Is Telegram becoming the new alternative to the Dark Web?

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An investigation by cybersecurity researchers into Telegram has revealed that private data of millions of people is being openly shared in the app's groups and channels with thousands of members.

Research from VPN provider vpnMentor further cements Telegram’s position as a safe haven for cybercriminals, finding  cybercriminals are using the popular encrypted communications platform to share and discuss massive data leaks exposing millions of people to unprecedented levels of online fraud, hacking, and attack.

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Recently a similar investigation by NortonLifeLock found evidence of a thriving illegal marketplace on Telegram where unscrupulous users hawk everything from Covid-19 vaccines and personal information, to pirated software and fake IDs.

Growing criminal enterprise

The vpnMentor researchers have detailed their findings in a report where they examine the growing trend of cybercriminals sharing leaked data on Telegram.

Their team joined several cybercrime-focused Telegram groups and channels to experience the illicit exchanges between bad actors for themselves.

To their surprise they discovered hackers openly posting data dumps on channels, some with over 10,000 members. More worryingly, the unscrupulous users don’t even shy away from discussions on how to exploit the data dumps in various criminal enterprises.

vpnMentor argues that while traditionally these data dumps would have been exchanged over the dark web, Telegram offers several advantages, including its focus on protecting the privacy of its members. 

Furthermore, Telegram offers a lower barrier of entry compared to the dark web and is immune to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and web takedowns that threaten the operations of cybercriminal outfits on the normal web.

While the report acknowledges the “limited steps” that Telegram has undertaken to remove the hacking-related groups, it hasn’t created much difference.

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.