Substitutes for Telegram: rejuvenated ICQ, insecure Dialog-M or Threema for paranoids
Overview of six alternatives to the messenger of Pavel Durov
On Monday, Russia launched the process of restricting access to Telegram. An impressive part of its audience started to use the means of bypassing the blocking and quietly continues to use this product, but some users for one reason or another decided to go to other messengers. Realnoe Vremya has prepared the overview of alternative applications and reminded what problems Roskomnadzor created for Russian users when trying to block Telegram.
Viber: end-to-end encryption, law-abidingness and ''a stab in the back'' from Roskomnadzor
Viber has a quite standard for all instant messengers feature package, it also has ''secret chats'' for confidential exchange of information and different channels. At the same time, to launch your own channel, you will have to wait for the approval of the administration of the messenger. Besides, Viber's privacy is ensured by end-to-end encryption.
Let us remind that a few years ago Viber was one of the first to report on the implementation of legislative new introductions dictated by the amendments to the Russian law ''On personal data''. According to the document, the services must store the data of Russians within the country. Viber fulfilled this requirement in a month.
It is worth noting that the law-abidingness and ''willingness to cooperate'' did not save the messenger from back-door ''bombings'' of Roskomnadzor arranged in an attempt to block Telegram. The thing is that in the evening on April 16 Roskomnadzor added more than 600,000 Amazon IP addresses to unloading of the register of forbidden websites as Telegram with their help started bypassing the restrictions. And this was only the beginning of the ''bombing''. On April 17 by three o'clock in the afternoon, Roskomnadzor had blocked almost 16 million IP addresses of the servers.
The blocking led to not the most pleasant consequences. First, Viber representatives said that some Russian users of the messenger had problems with calls. ''Some users in Russia are experiencing problems making calls on Viber. These issues seem to come from connectivity problems to Amazon Web Services in Russia,'' stated in the message of Viber on Twitter.
TamTam: a sharp increase in audience engagement, accounts-clones and calls to leave Telegram
The owner of the messenger is the Russian holding company, Mail.Ru Group. The mobile application was developed on the basis of the messenger ''OK messages'' of the social network Odnoklassniki. TamTam users can make voice and video calls, chat in groups, read and create channels (like on Telegram), as well as share different content with each other.
It is curious that after the release of TamTam on the market it was not so often to ''appear'' in the Russian media and social networks, but it lasted until last Friday, when the Tagansky District Court decided to block Telegram on the territory of the Russian Federation. Just at the end of last week, the messenger launched an active advertising campaign, urging Telegram users to go to TamTam.
On the day of the decision to block Telegram, the representative of TamTam said Vedomosti that ''more than 40,000 channels were created in the messenger in two days, and in total TamTam has more than 160,000 channels.''
Also, journalists noticed that recently in the messenger TamTam there have appeared a lot of channels that duplicate popular Telegram channels. Most of the interviewed owners of the original Telegram channels stated that they had nothing to do with the clones. There also were copies of channels of some mass media — Vedomosti, Snob, RBC and Meduza.
We should pay tribute to the administration of the messenger — after the information about clones spreaded on the Network, they launched a service verification of public channels.
ICQ: modernisation, the confession of presidential administration and ''wiretapping''
The legendary client ICQ, created by Israeli company Mirabilis back in 1996, now also belongs Mail.Ru Group. The application is the most adapted to modern standards and it can make voice and video calls, voice to text, as well as it has the function of superimposing 3D masks on the faces of users. The description of the messenger says that ''all calls are encrypted'', but the type of encryption is not specified. Also, it is not specified whether the text correspondence is secured.
About ensuring confidentiality in ICQ, the Telegram channel Chudesa OSINT expressed its view: ''In court decisions (mainly cases against drug dealers) in relation to this wonderful messenger they use the term SITKS. <…> But did you know what SITKS mean? It is ''removal of information from technical communication channels''. In plain terms, it is just a wiretapping.''
We would like to note that amid the blocking of Telegram, the presidential administration decided to chat in ICQ. This was reported to the correspondent from the Kremlin pool, Dimtry Smirnov: ''You will laugh, but the presidential administration and the conference call (Press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov) have started to use ICQ instead of Telegram. When I last used it, Medvedev was not even president yet.'' Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation on Internet development German Klimenko also spoke positively about ICQ: ''I like ICQ. This is a full-fledged messenger, not inferior to Telegram from the point of view of the average user.''
Dialog-M: timely launch of the beta version and the ''theft'' of accounts in 3 minutes
Another alternative is the messenger Dialog-M, created by the state-owned company Krymtekhnologii. ''The basic functionality has been presented for testing, it allows to exchange personal messages and messages in working groups, as well as to send files. It is only the beta version so far. After Roskomnadzor decided to block Telegram, we decided to put our messenger into test operation in advance to get feedback from users,'' one of the developers told the reporters.
In addition to the exchange of text messages and files, audio and video calls, the messenger users can create groups for discussion. We would like to note that for now the issue of security of Dialog-M remains open: one of the authors of the Internet resource TJournal decided to test the desktop version of the messenger and found out that it is not as secured as claimed by the developers. According to the author, any account can be stolen in 3-4 minutes. Let us explain that the author stole the TJ editor's account in Dialog-M as an experiment and with his consent.
WhatsApp: familiar functionality and security breaches
It is useless to describe the functionality of this messenger because it is familiar to almost everyone, but it is worth saying at least a couple of words about its security. If earlier WhatsApp experienced some problems with security, now with the release of the version 2.16.12 last year the messenger now has end-to-end encryption. The encryption applies to all forwarded content, including usual chats, group chats, photos, attachments, voice memos, and even voice calls.
At the same time, the authors of the Internet resource inform about some breachs in its security. According to them, despite such enscryption, the messenger can compromise through other means.
''WhatsApp has the function of backup chat history. Besides, WhatsApp sends the communication statistics on the servers of Facebook. The security of the local and cloud copies of correspondence is formal, and metadata is not encrypted at all — this is openly stated in the license agreement. The metadata shows who communicates with whom and how often, what devices they use, where they are located, and so on. This is a huge layer of indirect information that can be used against interlocutors who consider their communication channel secured,'' consider the authors of the publication.
Threema: the messenger for paranoids and claims of Roskomsvoboda
This messenger also has a standard function package: sending text messages and media, as well as creating group chats. We would like to note that the Swiss project Threema is sometimes called ''the messenger for paranoids''. To register, you do not need to link your phone number or e-mail — the program gives the user a unique identifier. On the basis of the code, it generates an individual key pair used for encryption and decryption of messages.
But here there is also its ''fly in the ointment''. Last year Roskomsvoboda found the desktop version of Threema in the Register of information dissemination organizers — these organizations are obliged ''to collect, store and provide information about the actions of the users on their website to authorized state bodies''. The representatives of the messenger then explained to journalists that the company operates under Swiss law and refuses to collect user data or transmit them to representatives of a foreign state. They added that they were included in the register by the representatives of Roskomnadzor, who required from the Swiss the name, physical and web addresses of the service they develop.
In turn, Roskomsvoboda reported that ''the service can be exempted from the obligation to store user information if it agrees to the hypothetical proposal of the special services to ensure access to it in full on a permanent basis and without any requests.''