Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs has stated that a recent occurrence of illegal cryptocurrency mining was enabled due to the vulnerability of the Telegram’s app software. The collaborative cybersecurity outfit is indignant that a relatively simple and well-known criminal method managed to filter through the popular messaging application.
However, Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, a former fellow citizen, denies the severity of the allegations, passing the blame to Telegram users for accommodating and opening malicious files.
“It should never happen” becomes “It can happen”
From Kapersky’s point of view, a patch or similar bugfix should have long ago been effected to close the possibility of Telegram Messenger being used in this way. According to Durov, however, a well-known presence in cyberspace who first launched the Russian social media site VK, the recent shock is nothing but the result of irresponsible users.
The fact remains that hackers mined Monero and other virtual currencies employing Telegram Messenger as the courier of malicious malware.
Facebook and other global, heavy-traffic sites can close down offensive content according to their in-house regulations when it appears. However, this case is different as the cryptocurrency arena is entirely enabled via the blockchain platform. While Telegram and the supposedly unbreakable security of a blockchain construct are different things, the public and regulatory perception currently are that this kind of breach should not occur.
Kaspersky agrees, stating that it “reported the vulnerability to Telegram and, at the time of publication, the zero-day flaw has not since been observed in messenger’s products.” As far as Kaspersky Labs is concerned, this is evidence of complete culpability.
Telegram claim their app is highly “secure”
Durov subsequently went online to manage the fallout from the incident. Telegram Messenger rose in popularity by depicting itself as an airtight, highly secure app that was feted by users, among them Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, as well as ISIS (Islamic State) militants.
Moreover, the Kaspersky allegations are coming at a bad time, with Telegram’s much-anticipated ICO due to take place soon. The ICO hopes to raise $2 billion to further expand its reach through its Telegram Open Network (TON) currency and endemic blockchain.
Plaintiff and defendant, and only one with a vested interest
Kaspersky reported that users were tricked into accepting malware that then siphoned their processing power to stealthily mine cryptocurrency or even opens a backdoor for hackers to take remote control of users’ machines. A Kaspersky Labs analyst, Alexey Firsh, said on February 13, 2018, that “We have found several scenarios of this zero-day exploitation that, besides general malware and spyware, was used to deliver mining software.”
He added, “such infections have become a global trend that we have seen throughout the last year.” Kaspersky also claims that it found “archives containing a Telegram local cache that had been stolen from victims.”
Telegram Refuses Responsibility
Pointing to the zero-day vulnerability, Kaspersky is laying the blame squarely at Telegram’s door. Durov hit back, saying, “as always, reports from antivirus companies must be taken with a grain of salt, as they tend to exaggerate the severity of their findings to get publicity in mass media.”
Far from a marketing exercise, it seems it was merely business as usual at Kaspersky Labs. Additionally, Kaspersky presents as the more credible of the two before the court of public sentiment.
Durov went on to say that the Kaspersky revelation was not a “real vulnerability on Telegram Desktop,” and that the only way cybercriminals could access a user’s machine was if the user first opened a malicious file.
“So don’t worry,” he surmised, “Unless you opened a malicious file, you have always been safe.” With Telegram’s ICO now imminent, Durov has to downplay the outfit’s culpability, whatever else might be true of the incident.
Durov is Russian by birth, although after being fired from VK in 2014, he and his older brother Nikolai have perpetually traveled the globe. He recently joined the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders as a Finnish representative.