back to article Russia to Apple: Kill Telegram crypto-chat – or the App Store gets it

Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor has written to Apple with a request to remove messaging app Telegram from its App Store. Or else. The regulator’s notice about the letter also requests that Apple cease “sending its service push notifications to Russian users.” The notice says the letter also includes the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No App Store... no RU?

    ...so would Apple respond by blocking everything .RU in Safari?

  2. Khaptain Silver badge

    Re: No App Store... no RU?

    It's actually a game to see who can build the best walled garden. It seems as though Russia is hellbent on wanting one with a very high wall, similar to that of their Chinese counterparts.

    I wouldnt bet on Apple winning this one, Putin is a stubborn bugger...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: No App Store... no RU?

    I am pretty sure that we will build a better one in the uk, just think of the children.

  4. Blockchain commentard

    Would the terrorist groups include those trying to annexe Crimea from the Ukraine?

  5. Tomato42 Silver badge

    no, it's the terrorist group that shot down the MH17 flight

    oh, wait, it's the same group

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh, wait, it's the same group

    FFS, get off the Daily Mail needle.

    The evidence is incontrovertible - it was Russia supplying the weapon, but it is not what the Daily Fail and our politicians are presenting.

    The evidence points 100% to fake scrapping - something the entire Eastern Europe is involved.

    We should have taken them to task on that and it is 100% clear who would be responsible in that case (you can google him), but we will not. The reason is that we are guilty of the same thing - it is only a week since 300 Soviet (or clones) BMPs and BTRs for which Czech Republic, Bulgaria and other Eastern European NATO members received a scrapping subsidy in the 1990-es reemerged from the dead to be donated to Ukraine. Everyone with them with a scrapping certificate and supposedly going into the smelter mid-1990-es. Everyone of them supposedly long converted into rails and contruction steel. Everyone of them ready to clock a civilian death toll comparable to that Buk over its service life. Proudly donated by NATO.

    It is an industry which spans all of Eastern Europe. It "produces" BTRs and tanks which you can see in the ranks of the Kurdish forces in Syria paid for with US money. It "produces" T72 tanks murdering civilians in Kongo. It "produces"... and so on with hundreds of people killed on a daily basis.

    Same as the Buk missile in question which was a "product" of the same industry.

    Now - re-read the evidence presented on Friday and see if it makes more sense. Pay special attention to the photos on Bellingcat and give it just two neurons worth of thinking - if this is an in-service launcher how many hours of latrine cleaning service their crew will have to do after inspection. This is in addition to it travelling through 3 regimental areas before being given to hillbillies for use.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The evidence points 100% to fake scrapping

    Hi Comrade! How is the weather in Moscow?

  8. Hate2Register

    How very you to complain about your own side :)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hi Comrade! How is the weather in Moscow?

    You mean - how is the weather in Kursk? That is where the trail of the launcher on Belingcat starts. It after that goes around 3 AA zones of command to cross the border with Ukraine after clocking a total of 780 km. That is the distance from Land's end to Edinburgh (for scale - one end of the UK to the other). This is all documented and presented by the investigation board on Friday as an official version.

    At the same time the closest AA base in the Southern region with Buks in active service was at under 60km. Right there. Next door. Near Rostov-na-Don.

    That is something the inquiry sort-a missed. As well as any plausible explanation on why a missile launcher in a state which in an (ex) Soviet Block army would have earned the crew a month in the latrines was transported 780km. Without radar. Without the service truck. Without the TELAR.

    Are you too intellectually challenged to Google who used to run that region on the dates when the missile in question was supposed to "scrapped"?

    You can find some cool pictures with him next to Putin too so no way Moscow would have been left clean either if we started from there. Where we should have. Though it may have gotten us more than we have bargained for.

    Too late now.

    It is us waving a serial number for a missile which they have documented as scrapped and them waving the scrappage certificate at us.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is us waving a serial number for a missile which they have documented as scrapped and them waving the scrappage certificate at us.

    And gosh golly gee, they would *never* lie about something like that... And they certainly wouldn't lie to cover their tracks!

  11. David 164

    Trying, no they succeeded in fully annexing crimea from Ukraine. With relatively little effort.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile, over in the UK ...

    They also want to ban Crypto and VPNs.

  13. Adam 1 Silver badge

    Re: Meanwhile, over in the UK ...

    Wow that's a bad way to do things. Down here, the powers that be are planning on simply usurping the commendable laws of mathematics with our local laws.

  14. Anonymous Blowhard

    Re: Meanwhile, over in the UK ...

    "Wow that's a bad way to do things. Down here, the powers that be are planning on simply usurping the commendable laws of mathematics with our local laws."

    It's called "Taking Back Control"; the laws of mathematics cannot be above the laws of the UK.

    If necessary we will have a referendum so that the lowest common denominator can decide whether we should leave mathematics...

  15. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Meanwhile, over in the UK ...

    On the other hand, once we decide that maths is other people's problem, we'll no longer have a lowest common denominator to decide these important issues with.

  16. John H Woods Silver badge

    Re: lowest common denominator

    More numerate types should remember: it's a thin line between them and the lowest common denominator

  17. Trumpet Winsock
    Thumb Up

    Re: lowest common denominator

    Chapeau sir!

  18. Spacedinvader

    Re: Meanwhile, over in the UK ...

    Down here = Australia. Not UK.

  19. onefang

    Re: lowest common denominator

    I think it's a divide and conquer strategy at work. They want to multiply their power and add to their profits. It's all integral to their plans.

  20. Hate2Register

    Re: Meanwhile, over in the UK ...

    Clever stuff. Wow

  21. Anonymous Blowhard

    Re: Meanwhile, over in the UK ...

    @ Spacedinvader

    Sorry, I thought "Down here" meant "Westminster"...

  22. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Apple and Google opened the Pandora's Box

    They catered for the "market needs" in China market and this opened the Pandora's Box.

    It is now simply a matter of time until all other governments form an orderly queue to get the same service.

    By the way, the service which is the bone of contention is not offering Telegram as such in the store. It is the way Telegram avoids blocks by using the core functionality of Apple and Google services. It tracks the address block list in real time (you can get the list via an API so that the SPs can implement it) and uses Apple store and Google services push notifications to alert ONLY the clients which are using a blocked server to move off to a new IP. As a result the regulator is absolutely powerless to prevent it from working.

    In any ase, It will be fun to watch if they do block Apple store. The Russian prime minister (Dmitri Medvedev) is a known fanboy and cannot be separated from the latest iPhone model by anything short of industrial construction equipment. It will be a joy to observe him the moment when Apple infra in Russia goes dead.

  23. DougS Silver badge

    Re: Apple and Google opened the Pandora's Box

    Pretty sure Russia would be able to block the App Store while still providing the chosen few government officials and oligarchs a way around it. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others was true in the communist days, but is doubly true in Putin's Russia.

  24. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: Apple and Google opened the Pandora's Box

    Pretty sure Russia would be able to block the App Store while still providing the chosen few government officials and oligarchs a way around it.

    So far they have not. One of the most hilarious parts of the whole affair was when Pleskov's secretary (Putin's spokesman) was trolling Medvedev's(*) secretary on Facebook (or was it Instagram, can't remember) that you have to be a moron not to be able to install a VPN for her boss.

    The newspapers have also been beyond scathing to the point where you need a profanisaurus for a proper translation. All in all - it has been a clown show all along. Though none of that has stopped roskomnadzor.

    (*)It could have been someone else that level - either him or the speaker of the parliament. Do not remember the details.

  25. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Re: Apple and Google opened the Pandora's Box

    It is now simply a matter of time until all other governments form an orderly queue to get the same service.

    Which is exactly what would happen if they add crypto backdoors for ANYONE - every country's gov, police, intelligence service, and petty bureaucrat will demand access to the back doors making it really just an open door - only one has to be in the service of a fund-stealing criminal gang for that to happen.

  26. PhilipN Silver badge

    "profanisaurus"

    UV'd because of the connection with that widely-read children's comic.

  27. DropBear Silver badge

    Re: Apple and Google opened the Pandora's Box

    "...profanisaurus..."

    Oh great - I know it's not what the word is supposed to mean, but now I can't shake the image of a T-Rex with Tourette's...

  28. Suricou Raven

    I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    Apple's purpose is commercial, not activist. They aren't going to throw away a market as large as Russia over this. They may drag their feet a while for the sake of PR - they don't want to be seen as rolling over for dictators too easily - but if it's a choice between blocking telegram or being unable to do business in Russia, it's no choice for them at all.

  29. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    Russia is China and the Russian market is not that big. Russia has a few very rich people and the rest are musiks. Apple can probably get more from the PR of not going along. After all, unlike Android, there is no replacement store so if the App Store gets pulled, there is no store and no way to provide updates.

  30. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    'They aren't going to throw away a market as large as Russia over this.'

    As I understand it Russia's GDP is about the same as California's, or Belgium and the Netherlands combined. So it's not really that big, certainly the PR gain from not doing business there could plausibly outweigh the loss in sales.

  31. Frenchie Lad

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    Big?

    Geographical size is irrelevant. Most important is the number of potential fanbois. Taking the fact the population of Russia is in decline (alcohol?) and the limited number of oligarchs (by definition limited) and above all a lack of a middle class with a sufficient disposable income, the loss of a "huge" Russian market will not dent Apple's turnover or profit: a mere blip on the horizon.

  32. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    Taking the fact the population of Russia is in decline (alcohol?)

    Neither are statements are correct.

    1. The drastic decline in birth rate to virtually zero seen everywhere in Eastern Europe (and worst in Russia) in the 1990-es and early 2000-s is now reversed.

    2. The most recent stats show decrease of alcohol consumption per capita by a factor of more than 2.

    and above all a lack of a middle class with a sufficient disposable income,

    That is where you are severely mistaken. The reason why Putin and Xi are not going anywhere anytime soon is drastic improvement of the per-capita income of the population as well as re-emergence of a middle class - both Russia and China. This is also why the average Russian shrugs off all the publicity stunts our PR consultants design for Navalny.

    The reality is that the population there is presently better off than they have ever been since the times of 1920-es NEP in Russia and better off than ever in history for China. As a result they do not give a damn about the fact that some government official owns a private castle in France. In fact they are enjoying reading the gossip and then shrug it off.

    So if we want something to happen there, we should first realize what are the realities there and adjust our propaganda and strategies accordingly. This also means taking some sober reality view on what is the state of affairs there instead of an intravenous overdose of a Torygraph/Daily Fail mix.

  33. DavCrav Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    "The reality is that the population there is presently better off than they have ever been since the times of 1920-es NEP in Russia"

    Actually, GDP per capita has dropped like a stone in the last few years, so they are now the same as they were in about 2006, having lost about 30-40% off the peak.

    Hope this helps.

  34. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    Actually, GDP per capita has dropped like a stone in the last few years,

    Correct. It is still way better than anytime in 1905-2000 period though and our endless posturing around sanctions provides a very easy target for Putin to blame for any decrease. In fact, he does not need to - even their opposition voted unanimously to class enactment of sanctions as an act of war - both in first and second reading (as of two weeks ago).

    So once again, if we are THAT interested in a regime change there some reconsideration is needed. By the way - if you listen carefully to the yesterday interview of the British ex-deputy head of NATO we should really think of it.

    One particular case which needs addressing in our propaganda is trying to stick everything on Putin himself. Let's face it - it is quite often not him and even if it was him, he is teflonated. So it makes more sense tactically to nail a person who really can be blamed and hope that the gavno which has gone all over the place after touching the fan stick on the boss too. A good example of a case like that would be the MH17 press conference and evidence.

  35. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    The most recent stats show decrease of alcohol consumption per capita by a factor of more than 2.

    Last stats I saw showed that the average life expectancy for men was still in decline and significantly below OECD norms. But this stuff is all relative. Putin has weathered the double-whammy of lower oil prices and sanctions reasonably well and most Russians still compare their situation with 1990 – 2000. The cloud on the horizon are those born after 1990, but they're still a tiny percentage and, of thouse, a signficant number are of the usual nationalist persuasion.

  36. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    As I understand it Russia's GDP is about the same as California's, or Belgium and the Netherlands combined.

    More significant is the very poor distribution of that GDP, much of which finds its way into overseas accounts pretty quickly. This significantly limits the disposable income of many.

    Going after Telegram is about the signal (sic) it sends to other rich ex-pats: we know where you live.

  37. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Re: I do not imagine Apple will take long.

    1. The drastic decline in birth rate to virtually zero seen everywhere in Eastern Europe (and worst in Russia) in the 1990-es and early 2000-s is now reversed.

    2. The most recent stats show decrease of alcohol consumption per capita by a factor of more than 2.

    Problem is, it's hard to believe any official figures coming from Putinland, and there's no independent ones anymore. So any statistic has to be taken carefully.

  38. DougS Silver badge

    What about iMessage?

    It is encrypted end to end with keys Apple does not possess, so it would seem it is just as bad Telegram for countries that don't like their citizens talking without spies listening.

    The world's authoritarian governments are fighting a losing battle, if they block VPNs, Telegram, even iMessage there will always be another app or another web service that allows secure communication. Maybe some of them will be backdoored, or poorly designed, but that won't be true of all of them and the terrorists citizens will still be able to say bad things about Putin or Xi without being overheard.

    Of course, as a US citizen I can't be too smug, given that the FBI pretty much wants the same thing, they are just couching it in "friendly" terms that require inventing new technology to provide a government only backdoor. Well, friendly so far. If there's another 9/11 scale attack and the FBI claims a terrorist's locked iPhone held the key to stopping it but stymied investigators, I fear too many citizens will be willing to trade privacy thinking it will mean greater security.

  39. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Re: What about iMessage?

    What about an app that simply encrypts over other's channels (SMS, email, FB messenger, etc, etc)?

  40. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: What about iMessage?

    What about an app that simply encrypts over other's channels

    Not sure what you're suggesting but SMS runs over systems controlled by the networks. I suppose you could shard an encrypted message like this but you've still got a problem of distributing the keys. I suspect it's only a matter of time until Telegram manages to put the necessary components on something like TOR which is more or less unblockable.

    But this has never been about the technology. Russia is a mafia state and the people who set up Telegram refuse to kowtow to Vlad. This usually means a holiday in Siberia along with special bank account.

  41. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: What about iMessage?

    It is encrypted end to end with keys Apple does not possess

    It is in the queue (a bit further down the line). Together with a long list of services.

    While the usual approach in such cases is to start with the low market share ones, Roskomnadzor started with the highest market share one and has made itself clear that it will be moving downwards until everyone is compliant or dead.

    By the way, it is being watched very carefully by a large number of politicians and civil service busybodies over here. Expect a repeat of it here with one difference - instantaneous read and realtime surveillance.

    The Russian system is set-up so that FSB (officially and in theory) has no access to the message content. So the fact that it has the keys to decrypt it are in theory of no relevance until it has its legal intercept or stored data retrieval order from a court. The content is supposed to be with the provider, which carries all costs to store it for the specified retention period as well as all compliance costs that data does not leak. To what extent this is true in practice we do not really know, but in theory it all looks kosher - it is a bog standard key escrow system which is not usable for realtime surveillance.

    There is none of that over here - all agencies and their dogs have instantaneous access to both realtime and stored data. This is something we DO KNOW. So the moment they have the keys they can read anything and everything in realtime.

  42. Blockchain commentard

    Re: What about iMessage?

    Or, shock horror, just actually speak to each other? Radical I know, but it might be an option.

  43. Thoguht Silver badge

    Re: What about iMessage?

    The problem of distributing keys over an unsecured connection was solved years ago - see Diffie–Hellman key exchange.

  44. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Re: What about iMessage?

    According to the article, the point is not encrypted communication per se. Rather it's a case of what's actually happened.

    Telegram has "defied" a court order by failing to help TPTB to decrypt messages involved in suspected terrorism.

    iMessage hasn't done any such thing, perhaps simply because there has been no such court order to defy.

    Difference in a nutshell. Though there's also a grey area where a provider chooses whether or not to cooperate so far as it can without the encryption keys, as in the FBI Iphone case. Indeed, that may become a de-facto compromise between legislators and technology in many countries.

  45. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    FAIL

    Possibly the biggest fail in history

    Putin just has to Tweet the code word "pee-pee" and Trump will start ranting about Apple and encryption.

  46. John70

    They could take down Telegram...

    ...but another messaging app will take it's place and around we go again.

  47. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: They could take down Telegram...

    You are not far off.

    Their big local players which were not (yet) offering end-to-end encrypted chat (VK, Mail.ru), etc all came out and said that they will be launching it by year end and they are not giving Roskomnadzor the keys.

    That will be even more interesting to watch as they have the difference of being local and not operated out of Germany (the way Telegram is).

  48. Tomato42 Silver badge

    Re: They could take down Telegram...

    but before that new app is vetted, and news about it spread, in the in-between confusion they will be able to find the "terrorists"...

    ...just after they have committed a suicide by 4 shots to the head, or by eating half a basket of poisonous mushrooms

  49. johnaaronrose

    Re: They could take down Telegram...

    Signal does much the same as Telegram. I understand that it doesn't have the same vulnerabilities, though it's been having some problems lately with AWS server usage which I understand are now resolved.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: They could take down Telegram...

    Yes, they will do anything to be tolerated as good citizens. It's a natural human reaction to a government that controls everything, has a monopoly on violence. And is not scared to use it. Oh hello mr. despot. We meet again...

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