The battle between mobile messaging apps continues to be waged among giants such as Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook. The latest salvo in the fight over mobile messaging supremacy has been fired by Telegram, the app developed by a the team behind the most successful social network in Russia.
Telegram is a mobile app that is very focused on security. It is nowhere as successful or popular as WhatsApp; the current active user count each month is about 100 million with more than 300,000 new subscribers joining each day. It is worth mentioning that a significant portion of Telegram’s users are very invested in security and privacy; to this effect, many of its users are IT specialists, journalists and members of the intelligence community.
The latest feature added to Telegram is currently available for European users: voice calls that enjoy end-to-end encryption for maximum privacy. Given the fact that all the major messaging apps already offer voice calls, this new Telegram feature may seem underwhelming; however, the details about the security of the calls are certainly impressive.
First of all, the secret chat protocol used by Telegram has been integrated into its new voice calling feature. This means that callers may use the key verification user interface that Telegram is famous for when they call each other. Instead of matching alphanumeric strings, callers will match emoticons to ensure that their encryption has not been broken and that their calls are not being intercepted.
Additionally, members of the Telegram development team are working on the integration of artificial intelligence routines that will improve the quality of voice calls when network latency is low.
Telegram has been on the receiving end of criticism by security researchers who claim that strong encryption schemes could be used by people who wish to avoid law enforcement. Another app that has received similar criticism is Signal, a network that is often used by political activists living in oppressive regimes.
It is interesting to note that some security features found in Telegram are being adopted by the mainstream players as well. One example is WhatsApp, which now features encrypted voice calling.