The Russian government ordered the Telegram messaging app be banned last week due to its failure to turn over encryption keys to authorities. But as the app’s founder promised, Telegram is still working. Now, Russia is breaking the internet in the country by blocking millions of IP addresses in a scattershot attempt to quash the service.
On Tuesday, Russian outlet Meduza first reported that over two million IPs from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud servers were being blocked. As of today, a special site set up to track the blockages placed the number at more than 15 million.
Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, is tasked with obtaining encryption keys for all web services in the country and enforcing blocks. Telegram fought the order on principle and technical grounds, saying that it couldn’t hand over encryption keys if it wanted to because they are generated and stored on individual users’ devices.
According to Bloomberg, Telegram is the only app to be banned in Russia for not giving authorities backdoor access.
Following the court’s decision to move forward with a ban, founder Pavel Durov warned users not to delete or reinstall the app because he would still be able to send them notifications and “Telegram will use built-in methods to bypass the block, which do not require additional steps from users”.
As Bleeping Computer points out, Telegram moved its servers over to Amazon and Google to get around the ban, and Russians on Twitter are complaining that online games and other services are being affected by the IP blocks. Still, Telegram persists. Last night, Gizmodo reached out to a handful of people in Moscow who all confirmed that Telegram was working for them without the need of a VPN.
According to Reuters, Roskomnadzor has “requested” that Apple and Google remove Telegram from their respective app stores. We’ve reached out to both companies to ask if they intend to comply with the request but did not receive an immediate reply.
Telegram’s attorneys are still working their way through an appeals process, and Durov has continued to make his case in public. Yesterday, he warned that “Russia’s national security will decrease, as some of the personal data of Russian citizens will pass from a platform that is neutral to the Russian Federation, to US-controlled WhatsApp/Facebook.”