Every so often, a scandalous video goes viral on social media. Before you can get your hands on it, Facebook ,Twitter and Instagram flag it. In the comment section, someone will randomly place a telegram link where you can get all access to all kinds of unmoderated content.
It is now emerging that Telegram, taunted as a WhatsApp rival, has become the preferred platform for cyber criminals and hackers due to its relaxed moderation rules. A study conducted on behalf of The Financial Times by Cyberint found that hackers were now using the platform to sell and share leaked data, more than any other mainstream platform.
Cyber criminals and hackers often prefer to use the dark web. However, their reach is limited as not everyone can access it. Telegram therefore serves a great option. With little moderation, the app offers end-to-end encryption guaranteeing privacy, it is easy to search for and join groups using a link or name, and groups or channels can have as many as 200,000 users. The app is also easy to download and set-up.
According to Cyberint Threat Analyst Tal Samra, these features have made the messaging grow by more than a hundred percent in usage among cybercriminals
“Its encrypted messaging service is increasingly popular among threat actors conducting fraudulent activity and selling stolen data… as it is more convenient to use than the dark web.” Samra says.
In its findings, Cyberint also indicates that search terms often used in the dark web rose four times on Telegram between 2020 and 2021. The terms are often used to sell stolen emails and passwords. The study also referenced a channel called “Combolist” that not only referenced a hacker terminology, but was used to sell data obtained maliciously.
The channel, which had 47,000 subscribers was shut down after an enquiry from the Financial Times.
According to Cyberint, there are also a number of channels that operate as marketplaces for financial data, personal documents, malware, and hacking guides, as well as online account credentials.
The study also revealed that the dark web was making significant gains from Telegram. The researchers found a spike in the number of Telegram links shared in the dark web between rising from 172,000 in 2020 to more than 1 million this year.
Telegram however maintains that its policy is to remove content that is shared without consent.