Is Telegram safe and secure to use?
Nowadays Internet users can choose from a variety of messengers. But definitely, everyone wants to use an app that is more secure and better for privacy. Let’s dive in and reveal all the pros and cons related to online safety of such a popular messenger as Telegram.
What is Telegram?
Telegram is a free popular cross-platform messaging app known for its speed, security, and good usability. The messenger is available for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux users. Also, you can log in to Telegram Web from a browser. Telegram is not tied to other social media platforms, unlike WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger that are owned by Meta.
You can use the app on several devices simultaneously — messages will automatically sync across your phone, tablet, or laptop. As well as sending messages and files of any type, Telegram allows you to create groups, channels, and bots.
A brief history of Telegram
Telegram was launched in 2013 by brothers Pavel and Nicolai Durov as an alternative to WhatsApp messenger. Telegram was originally founded in St. Petersburg, but the company has been relocated several times and currently, Telegram’s development team is based in Dubai. The application supports 13 languages and is available for download in 155 countries.
Telegram's current status: where does it stand?
Nowadays Telegram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Its user base is growing at over 40% annually and over 700 million people use Telegram every month. By August 2021, the app became the 7th most downloaded app across iOS and Android.
The application continues to develop, regularly supplemented with new useful features. In 2022, the company released Telegram Premium, a subscription which offers users additional options like no ads, exclusive stickers and reactions, faster downloads, and so on.
The reasons why Telegram is so popular today
The largest audience of the app is located in India, China, Russia, and the US. The messenger provides the following distinctive options which make it so popular:
- Secret chats with end-to-end encryption for higher privacy. This useful option isn't active by default. To create a secret chat, a user needs to do it manually.
- Large file download. Users can send files up to 2 GB , premium users — twice this size.
- Message editing. To do it, press and hold the message and tap Edit in the context menu. The recipient will see if the message was edited. It’s possible to edit messages that were sent up to 48 hours ago.
- Username sharing. Telegram allows people to share usernames rather than phone numbers. In this case, the user can choose how other people can contact them by phone number or user name.
- Multiple sessions. Telegram users can log in on several devices at the same time and receive messages simultaneously.
- Super large groups. Nowadays a group on Telegram can afford up to 200,000 members. For example, WhatsApp allows users to create groups with up to 1024 participants.
- Channels. Channels are similar to groups, but channels can accommodate an unlimited number of readers and the creator of the channel chooses who can publish the posts.
- Instant view. The Instant view feature allows users to view articles in an easily readable way without waiting for them to load.
Is Telegram safe to use?
Telegram has the reputation as a secure and safe messenger which offers its users a high level of privacy and protection in online communication. However, this app is not ideal and has some weaknesses, which everybody should know. Let’s take a look at them.
Telegram collects data about your contacts
The app automatically gathers basic information about your contacts. The company says it needs this information to notify you when someone from your contact list joins Telegram.
Doesn’t have public servers
If some software is open source it indicates that the app’s code is available for public inspection and this makes it more trustworthy and secure. But Telegram is not an open source application as it uses the proprietary encryption protocol MTProto, which was developed by and exclusively for Telegram. And as far as the technology hasn't been tested as much as other popular protocols we can't know about possible vulnerabilities in MTProto.
Records users’ IP addresses and other metadata
The app gathers information about devices and Telegram apps you've used, and the history of username changes. The storage period is one year. The company says that they need this data to improve the security of users’ accounts and prevent spam.
End-to-end encryption is available only for secret chats
While traveling between your device and Telegram's server, all messages are encrypted. Since these messages are stored on the server, they can be accessed from a variety of devices. Your messages could be exposed if Telegram's servers are breached. You need to manually start secret chats if you want end-to-end encryption. A non-secret chat started by you or someone else does not have the same privacy protection as a secret chat.
Telegram might share data with the governments
Telegram is reportedly sharing user data with the German government. Although the company itself claims that it never reveals any information about its users. Such information might call into question whether Telegram is safe to use or not.
5 tips to make Telegram more secure
Here are some tips which can help to increase your security and privacy while using Telegram.
Use secret chats with end-to-end encryption
While usual messages in Telegram have client-server/server-client encryption, messages in secret chats maintain client-client encryption. This means that all messages, files, and media in secret chats are only available for the sender and the recipient on their devices. In addition, Telegram can’t decrypt these messages and only is able to store and process random sequences of characters that don't make sense without keys. Also, users can’t forward messages from secret chats and might activate the self-destruction option. When a user deletes messages on their device, Telegram automatically deletes messages from the device of a recipient too.
Secret chats are not stored on the Telegram cloud. That's why you can get access to them from the device of origin. Also, a user loses all secret chats after logging out. Remember, secret chats are not created by default, you need to create them manually. To do it, open the required user’s profile, tap …’ → Start Secret Chat.
Set up two-step verification to reach more security
Without this option, any person needs only a phone to get an SMS code and log in to the application. The two-step verification requires a password created before by the Telegram user and an SMS code. Since only you know the password, your telegram account is more protected from unauthorized access.
To activate this feature, go to Settings → Privacy and Security → and turn on Two-Step Verification. Also, users can add a recovery email address, which might be used to recover a forgotten password.
Enable account auto-deletion
Telegram automatically deletes the user's account if it's inactive for six months. However, this setting can be edited. Users can adjust how long Telegram should wait before deleting a profile, for example, a month, three months, or a year.
Use the self-destruction option for messages
It is possible to configure secret messages to self-destruct after a set period of time, which adds even more security. You can do the same thing in apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
Set up privacy settings for your account
You can control who can call you via Telegram, see your profile picture, and phone number, and also add to groups and channels. To adjust this, go to Settings → Privacy and Security and make the required changes.
How AdGuard can increase your security and privacy while using Telegram
Another way to increase your security while chatting via any messenger, not only Telegram, is using a VPN. As we already know, Telegram stores users' IP addresses. With VPN, you can hide your real IP address and replace it with the IP address of the VPN server you choose. For the entire Internet the IP of the VPN server will look like your IP. Also, VPN encrypts all your Internet traffic and provides an additional level of protection for your online activity.
Nowadays Internet users can find plenty of VPN services on the web. Let’s look closer on benefits of AdGuard VPN:
- Proprietary VPN protocol. The AdGuard VPN is based on a unique in-house protocol that provides not only a stable connection but a high level of privacy. AdGuard considered the disadvantages of previous protocols and decided to make its own VPN protocol instead of taking a ready-made solution. AdGuard VPN protocol can be hardly distinguished from normal HTTPS traffic, i.e., the connection to AdGuard VPN looks identical to the connection to an ordinary website. In order to encrypt data, the AdGuard VPN protocol uses HTTPS (TLS). In addition to being the most popular encryption method in the world, it is constantly audited for its security by library authors.
- DNS server of your choice. With AdGuard VPN you no longer need to rely on the ISP’s choice and can use any DNS server from many well-known providers.
- Fast VPN server locations. AdGuard VPN has a lot of VPN servers around the world and adds new locations so you can choose from a variety of options.
- QUIC protocol support. QUIC is the latest protocol, which not only provides advanced encryption but also improves connection quality under non-ideal conditions.
What are the risks of using Telegram?
Telegram doesn’t provide end-to-end encryption by default. This means all messages, files and so on are stored on Telegram's servers, which potentially might have leaks. Also, Telegram stores users’ IP addresses and other metadata for up to 12 months.
How can I increase my privacy while using Telegram?
To increase your privacy while using Telegram, check your account, go to Settings → Privacy and Security. Here you can set up who can see your phone number, profile photo, call you via Telegram, and can add you to groups and channels. Create secret chats for communications and use VPN.
Is Telegram more secure than WhatsApp?
Both apps implement and share almost the same security features to protect the communication between users. The company claims Telegram to be more secure than WhatsApp because the app is based on a unique encryption protocol MTProto. In addition, Telegram gathers less information about users than WhatsApp, owned by Meta (Facebook). To increase your privacy regardless of the messenger you choose, use a VPN.