Telegram today responded to reports that it was the victim of a “massive hacker attack” that originated in Iran. The messaging app company said that while 15 million accounts were implicated, the hack was not as severe as one might think, as only publicly available data was collected. In short, users were asked to remain calm and continue using Telegram as before — everything is okay.
Cyber researchers shared with Reuters that Iranian hackers were able to access more than a dozen accounts on Telegram and ultimately identify phone numbers of 15 million users in the country. It’s been claimed that Rocket Kitten was behind the attack, carrying out “a common pattern of spearphishing campaigns reflecting the interests and activities of the Iranian security apparatus.”
In response to the news, Telegram clarified that while publicly available data was collected from among 15 million users, individual accounts were not directly accessed. “Such mass checks are no longer possible since we introduced some limitations into our API this year,” the company explained in a blog post. That said, the company did acknowledge that since its app is based around phone contacts, anyone could “potentially” check to see if a particular phone number is registered in the system — something Telegram said was possible with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other similar apps.
It’s been alleged that SMS interception has been possible, if phone companies shared these text messages directly with hackers. Telegram scoffed at this idea, saying “This is hardly a new threat, as we’ve been increasingly warning our users in certain countries about it.” The company reiterated that it has implemented two-factor authentication specifically to defend against such cases.
While people may be concerned about the security of Telegram, the company believes the hacking incident is being blown out of proportion and suggests everyone take a deep breath and remember that no sensitive information was compromised.