BY ANONYMOUS– Pavel Durov – “Russian Mark Zuckerberg”, a young Internet tycoon who created the most popular social network in the country, and then was forced to cede it to the Kremlin – all at the age of 30. Soon after the famous American unmasker Edward Snowden fled to Russia, fleeing persecution, Durov offered him a job, but then he himself was forced to leave the country because of a conflict with the Russian government. Because of a quarrel with the Kremlin, he was initially considered a cyber-assidant, but subsequently Durov attracted to himself the insistent and aggressive attention of the American special services.

Durov talking about a vague paranoid world in which cryptic-security-minded supporters of privacy – a world where espionage rules, everything is not what it seems, and you can not trust anyone. Paranoia does not surprise me. For the past three years, I’ve explored the sources of cybersecurity tools that formed the basis of the current powerful Internet privacy movement: anonymizers, applications for encrypted messaging, untracked cloud storage for “truth fighters”, and ultra-reliable operating systems that are rumored to not be able to hack even the US National Security Agency. They enjoy the confidence of journalists with the Pulitzer Prize, hackers, unmaskers, as well as all famous people and organizations fighting for the inviolability of information – from Edward Snowden and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to the American Civil Liberties Union. Applications like Tor and Signal promise to protect users from an all-seeing American surveillance device. And what about cryptographers and programmers who developed this “popular crypto”? Many of them say that they walk along the edge of the abyss; they are cryptoanarchists fighting with the authorities, persecuted and overpowered by government agents of the invisible front. Some of them, on the pretext of persecution, left the United States altogether, leaving for a voluntary exile in Berlin.

In any case, that’s how they see themselves. My information shows a different reality. As I was able to find out by digging through the financial documentation and requests for the FOIA, many of these self-proclaimed online radicals turned out to be military contractors on the salary of the very apparatus of US national security with which they allegedly are fighting. Their rebellious crypto technologies, upon closer examination, also turned out to be self-made “Potemkin villages” in the world of secure digital communications. Moreover: similar software, as it turned out, was funded by the US government. Every year, the Pentagon, the State Department and a host of organizations, promoted by the CIA, allocate millions of dollars to the cryptoradicals.

The study of this community gave me a lot of problems: military contractors spread slander and threatened my life and the lives of my colleagues; The media published sucked stories about my sexism, and CIA agents paid for undermining confidence in cryptography. So to my sources I have long learned to approach with skepticism and circumspection – especially to such notorious as Durov, who got into an unpleasant story with his Telegram, which became the most popular application for messaging in IGIL.


Internet tycoon on the run
Durov, asked to hide the place of meeting because of the conflict with the Russian government, was also cautious. And with full right.

A thirty-two-year-old multimillionaire – and, according to the media, the most radical Internet tycoon in Russia. In 2006, at the age of just 22, he became one of the founders of VKontakte, a social network modeled on Facebook, which, in popularity in Russia and the former Soviet republics, surpassed Facebook itself. But the company was not under his control for long. In 2011, when mass protests against the ruling party of Vladimir Putin became possible largely thanks to coordination through social networks, the government decided to tighten control over VKontakte. Durov resisted and repeatedly arranged acts of disobedience: he published photographs of documents in which the company was required to block certain political groups, and openly ridiculed the FSB.

But the Kremlin persisted and, ultimately, achieved its goal. Durov was tired of the fire at the suppression that led the Russian state, resorting to various tactics: police raids on Durov’s apartment; strange blackmail with, according to him, a fake video on which he shoots a traffic cop on a black Mercedes; trumped up charges that forced him to leave the country. So in 2014, the young social network creator was forced to sell his 20% VKontakte to a concern led by the Uzbek Alisher Usmanov, a creepy oligarch loyal to Vladimir Putin. Without his brainchild, Durov could no longer claim the role of Zuckerberg in Russian politics.

He left Russia and, having made a strategic investment of money in St. Kitts and Nevis, became a citizen of this Caribbean country. In the past three years, he led the life of an independent multimillionaire, wandering around the globe and living in luxury hotels, neglecting the purchase of land and real estate. Durov could do whatever he pleased, so in exile he and his older brother Nikolai worked on a new major project, wasting time and money – and his fortune is estimated at about $ 300 million – to develop a new messaging application, Telegram.


Telegram has about 100 million users worldwide, ten times less than WhatsApp, its closest competitor, owned by Facebook. But Telegram has succeeded in quite unexpected places: for example, it is extremely popular in Iran and Uzbekistan. In Europe, he also has many users and a growing number of fans among Russian journalists. In addition, Telegram liked “Al-Qaeda” and IGIL, which consider it the safest messenger available on the market. These terrorist groups use Telegram’s encrypted chat rooms to coordinate attacks, and the channels – to spread propaganda, solicit extremists and reports of responsibility for successful terrorist attacks. Telegram was exposed during terrorist attacks in France, Germany, Turkey, and, in the latter case, in Durov’s hometown of St. Petersburg, where a single terrorist carried out an explosion at a metro station that killed 15 people and mutilated many more.

How to understand hints
Not surprisingly, the Russian government was again interested in Durov. Representatives of the Russian special services exerted pressure on him, trying to force him to share information under the threat of blocking the service. But the Russian government is not alone in trying to pin Durov to the wall. Americans also want to take part in this.

While the waitress brings a plate of bread and snacks – chopped squid and tuna tartar – Durov explains that in the past few years the FBI has been trying to get him to go into a secret collaboration, and it came to bribing one of the developers. Previously, he had never publicly mentioned any problems with the FBI.

Durov says that the pressure began in 2014, shortly after the sale of VKontakte. Then the FBI agents began constantly questioning him on the US border. Sometimes he was detained for additional interrogation at the entrance, sometimes intercepted him to “chat” while he was hurrying to the plane. Initially, the FBI was interested in his work on VKontakte and the company’s relations with Russian special services, including actions when receiving information from the authorities. “These questions put me in an awkward position,” says Durov, “I did not want to become an American” mole “, so I limited myself to the very minimum of information that the media already knew.”


Later, the FBI officers switched to questions about Telegram. Where it is located? How does it work? How can the FBI contact Durov in the future? Agents sent Durov friendly emails, offering to feel free to contact them in case of any problems or need for help. All these flirting Durov ignored, but the FBI obviously wanted something. The only question is what exactly. In 2016, there was an answer. In May of this year, he flew from Europe to San Francisco for the annual Google I / O conference. On the first morning, at eight o’clock, two FBI agents made an unexpected visit to a house in Mountain View, which Durov shot through Airbnb. “How did they know the address? – Asked Durov. – Have you tracked the sim card? They followed me from the airport? Got information from Uber? I do not know”.

Whatever it was, both agents were clearly acting on the job. “From the doorstep they began to ask questions about Telegram, and it bothered me,” Durov says, explaining that it was not necessary for unwanted guests to go to the bottom of the matter: they needed an unspoken channel to drain information in order to receive data from Telegram on certain users in the event of a terrorist threat; agents even came with ready-made and seemingly official documents. “They showed the court’s ruling and stated:” We highly respect your views on personal information and cryptography; we respect what you are working on. But terrorism exists, it represents a serious problem, and we have a duty to protect society. We hope that you will understand us correctly. We want to establish an information exchange process in order to get help from you in the event of a terrorist threat, “Durov retold. In the course of twenty-minute conversation, the agents made it clear that they were hoping for the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation.

Telegram is registered in the UK under the name of Telegram Messenger LLP – in turn, this company is owned by two others, from the British Virgin Islands and Belize. The messenger data is also fragmented and distributed to different states – this is part of Durov’s overall strategy, which in theory will make it difficult to legitimate access to user data as much as possible. In the United States, Telegram is not legally present, so the FBI has no legitimate reason to demand anything from Durov or his company. Durov says he understood: the court ruling was a ruse to get him to cooperate, but he played along and promised that he would contact the agents after Telegram lawyers got acquainted with the document.

Nevertheless, according to Durov, this case made him think. “In Russia, the guys from the FSB, with whom I dealt, did not impress me. The grasp is so-so, professionalism is also not up to par. In the US, the FBI looks quite different. The people who spoke to me were very competent. They spoke several languages. They investigated the essence of the matter and knew exactly which questions to ask. In a word, first-class specialists. Then I realized that America allocates such means to security that it is simply frightening. American intelligence agencies are much more effective. ”

Find the mole
The FBI agents left, but they could not be forgotten. As Durov says, they took aim and the developer Telegram, who flew to the Google conference and stayed in the same house in Mountain View as Durov (the FBI spokesman refused to discuss the details of Durov’s case with The Baffler).


At the airport, the FBI’s cybersecurity agents already stopped and interrogated the developer, but later he was assigned another meeting at a cafe in San Francisco. Agents who met the developer, fell asleep with general questions about the architecture of Telegram and the work of the cryptalgorithm, while lavishly extolling the praise for his profound knowledge. Soon came to the real goal: to gain access, for which they were willing to pay. Durov did not disclose the name of this developer, but shared a story that the subordinate told him. The FBI wanted to conclude an agreement according to which the developer secretly would pass on information about the internal mechanisms of Telegram like new functions and other components of the architecture that might be of interest. The agreement would be strictly confidential, and the remuneration would be high. “For you it definitely will be worth it,” they said. According to them, the developer would “advise” the FBI – not too veiled euphemism for obvious bribery. “FBI agents hinted at an approximate amount,” says Durov, chewing on bread, “about tens of thousands of dollars.”

After the developer refused the offer, the agents met with him again, asking nobody, and especially the boss, not to talk about their conversation. “They were very straightforward,” notes Durov. “Do not say anything to Paul, it’s our secret.”

He shrugs his shoulders and smiles. It seems that the FBI deal broke down. “We pay our developers very well,” Durov says in a small burst of arrogant complacency, “our developers are millionaires. Of course, they can not be bribed with such proposals. ”

So, the FBI is trying to turn Durov’s employee into a “mole”? I thought that Durov would not fail to inflate this case. Companies from the Silicon Valley and anxious about crypto-security cling to any opportunity to appear as victims of government oppression and often exaggerate the smallest incidents to add points to this confrontation. Take, for example, the case when Apple inflated the FBI request to unlock the only phone (used in the attack in San Bernardino, when 14 people died) in opposing the tyranny of the authorities – and this despite the fact that at the same time, Apple complied with the requirements China to provide data (in the end, the FBI received the necessary data for San Bernardino, using the services of third-party hackers). Or, just recently, a developer who worked for Tor, a project for anonymity on the Internet, funded by the Pentagon, fled to Germany after the FBI agent left a business card at her parents’ house.

A special page on the Apple website about the incident in San Bernardino and the intervention of the FBI

Given the libertarian views of Durov and his closeness to such circles, I thought that he would start raging against tyranny, but he was amazing, even discouragingly balanced and judicious. Of course, he was concerned and upset by the pressure from the FBI and promised to resist all attempts by the US government to access the Telegram data. But what happened did not surprise him. After all, the FBI exists for such purposes. “Americans, in effect, are doing their job. After all, if you look from their point of view … Here’s a young guy, his application is used by terrorists. It is necessary to find out who he is. What is his command? This is all logical. I do not see anything supernatural in this, “he says. “When that happened, of course, I could make a big noise.” “Look, Americans are pressing me!”. But I thought that it would be too pretentious and melodramatic. ”

So why tell about this now? Durov says he just wanted to emphasize a fact that is usually completely overlooked in the heat of the dramatic struggle of the Silicon Valley inhabitants with federal authorities: the Telegram case is indicative of the ways in which authorities try to influence the sphere of large data. “I talked about this only to point out that the US intelligence services are acting persistently and persistently, and they only fulfill their duties. You will be intercepted at the airport. They will be declared uninvited at the address, which only you would have known. Try to bribe the developers. In general, the FBI does its work very carefully, and we’ve only had a couple of days in America, “he says.

If the FBI is so persistent in dealing with Telegram, without stopping even before bribing employees on a short business trip, then how does the US government behave towards companies headquartered in the US? “I can not imagine how I, or someone else, could manage applications in such conditions, focused on the preservation of personal information. They will start with the requirements to share data on terrorism, and then God will gradually reach the news. ”

This suddenly started talking in news programs, Frontline investigations began, the Pulitzer Prizes were poured. The protests against surveillance were raging, signatures were collected on the Internet, and state supervisory services and consumer protection organizations scanned the mass of reports. In 2013, we seemed to be on the verge of a mass movement that would help people enact laws to protect the integrity of information and not only restrict government surveillance, but also drive uncontrolled data collection by companies from the Silicon Valley. But everything went differently.

Four years later, it became obvious that the energy, fury and potential of civil protests were redirected into a narrow channel. The new consensus, voiced by the Silicon Valley, says that to protect against surveillance we just need to download the application for cryptographic protection of data and run it on your iPhone. Instead of seeking a political and democratic solution to the government-corporate crisis that is poisoning our society, the movement for the inviolability of information turned out to be in the libertarian rut. In the shortest time, supporters of the inviolability of the data forgot that the people and politicians can change the world for the better and chased after a clear fantasy: if everyone gets powerful crypto weapons at his disposal, he can challenge corporations and all-powerful organizations like the NSA; will be able to use technology to protect information on its terms.

Edward Snowden himself became the chief troubadour of this approach, not missing the opportunity to state that civil policy is meaningless, but the use of technological tricks is the right thing. The question of commercial surveillance, which is actively engaged by companies from the Silicon Valley, he actually ignored, saying The Washington Times that “Twitter does not keep anyone at gunpoint.” On the contrary, Snowden considers private companies like Apple and Facebook as allies – like small islets of security in the raging sea of ​​the Internet. In his eyes, private developers and software specialists are real advocates of citizens, whom he calls to rebel against government oppression. “If we want to get a decent future, we’ll have to create it ourselves. Politics will not do much, and as history shows, the political path is the most unreliable way to achieve change … after all, the law is just letters on paper. They will not rise to protect your rights, “he told the visitors to the Fusion’s 2016 Real Future Fair in the video message from Moscow. For Snowden, who turned from a denunciator into a political philosopher, political movements and civic actions are a total frivolity, giving no real guarantees; on the contrary, crypto protection and computer technologies are reliable tools based on the laws of mathematics and physics. “Technologies do not work like laws,” said a runaway denouncer to the guests of the Real Future Fair, “technology does not recognize jurisdictions.”

This is an absurd position. Let’s replace the word “technology” with an “assault rifle”, and Snowden’s speech will sound very appropriate at the Republican Conference of Conservative Political Action (CPAC). But on Real Future Fair Snowden applauded standing. Although why not? From the moment they started talking about Snowden, a whole chorus of laurel journalists, activists, leftist intelligentsia and powerful organizations like the EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supported the techno-centric view of the world. Silicon Valley also supported Snowden’s views. Legion of brave developers has proposed a number of extremely narrow technical solutions for security, stating that this will save users from government surveillance. In doing so, they themselves shamelessly follow the same users for profit.

Whatever it was, but Snowden’s call to arm with crypto weapons inspired Durov to create Telegram. “I am far from politics and can not lobby for bans on total surveillance,” he wrote in October 2013, a few months after Snowden arrived in Moscow and shortly before Durov himself was forced to leave Russia – but there is something -that that we – IT entrepreneurs and programmers – can do. We can develop and finance technologies aimed at ensuring that total surveillance is technically impossible. ”

In America, the initial impetus to move the fight against surveillance to the territory of the Silicon Valley itself has gone out and degenerated into something strange and miserable: activists began to cooperate with Google and Facebook to counter the NSA with the help of cryptology. Sense in this is exactly the same as in the association with Blackwater (or Xe, or Academi, or whatever they call themselves these Pentagon contractors) against the US Army. But the tendency to pursue policy by software has intensified after the election of Donald Trump as president. Civil rights fighters, advocates of information integrity and demoralized liberals vie with excitement that encryption – even that offered by monsters of surveillance from the Silicon Valley – is a reliable way to protect themselves from the totalitarian administration of Trump.

“Trump became president. Encrypt the letters, “Max Reed of New York Magazine called in a column that the New York Times published in March.” A few weeks after Donald Trump won the election, there was a clear split between my friends. ” And it’s not about political disagreements about the new president or philosophical discourse about the future of the country; it’s about what application we’d better use for messaging … “. The authors of Buzzfeed expressed the same opinion: “How to protect your information in America Donald Trump: Simple methods of protection from closer surveillance of the state,” the publication wrote, offering its readers from the generation of the 2000s a detailed guide how to “go into the shadows” in the open spaces world network.


The title of Max Reed’s article for NYT

What are these applications? Who designed them? Do they really work? And here the situation takes an even more strange turn.

Mysteries and lies
Durov’s involuntary meetings with the FBI revealed an unpleasant fact from the “big data” industry: the modern movement for information integrity is almost entirely dependent on the cryptography tools fostered and paid for by the US foreign policy apparatus – a conglomeration of government agencies and organizations generated by the Cold War propaganda wave The CIA.

In 1948, the CIA received carte blanche for all kinds of covert operations to contain and neutralize the spread of communism from the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe. In this war of ideologies, radio propaganda became the main tool, and the CIA used various groups to create radio stations with names like “Radio Liberation from Bolshevism” and “Radio Free Europe”. In the fifties and sixties, the CIA expanded its radio network for use in operations against communist, leftist and other suspicious forces that could spread the dangerous bacillus of Bolshevism in Asia and Latin America.

The idea was not to allow the states there to freely dispose of their own information sphere, as well as in influence and domination over the minds of people for the promotion of American interests. In the opinion of the CIA itself, this secret propaganda operation has become a masterpiece, and the intelligence agency still regards it as one of the most successful psychological warfare projects carried out by the United States.

In the end, the propagandistic octopus of the CIA became out of the secret, and the US Congress transformed it into an International Broadcasting Supervisory Board, a federal agency like the State Department. In our time, the Supervisory Board with a budget of almost a billion dollars manages all the country’s foreign propaganda. About its existence, the American public has the vaguest idea, and meanwhile the Supervisory Council conducts satellite, television and radio broadcasts to almost every corner of the world. And, as it was with the CIA almost seventy years ago, the council’s mission is precisely in what American politicians now accuse Russia: news financing is part of the objective, and partly distorted, in the interests of the struggle for geopolitical domination.


Newsroom in Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc., which is funded by the Supervisory Board

But this is not all. As the Internet spread throughout the world, it turned into a powerful instrument of influence, and the US government began to mercilessly use its advantage over competitors under the banner of “Internet freedoms.” The policy adopted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not limited to broadcasting news. Its goal was to turn this technology of world communications into weapons to weaken opponents, to overthrow unfriendly governments and support opposition movements from China and Russia to Iran, Syria and Libya. “The Obama administration is the world leader in promoting” shadow “cellular and Internet systems that dissidents can use to fight authoritarian governments that try to drown out their voice by censorship or blocking communications networks,” the New York Times said in 2011, when for the first time the program “Free Internet” began to unfold.

Within the framework of this program, one can also tell about secret projects for the creation of independent cellular networks in other states, and a purely spy story, as in a five-story store in Washington’s L Street, a group of young entrepreneurs reminiscent of amateur musicians pushed deceptively innocent devices into a prototype ” Internet in a suitcase “… Such a suitcase can be secretly carried across the border and quickly create a wireless network with access to the Internet in a large area.

Further, as usual, more. In the years that followed, the Supervisory Board, with the support of the State Department, deployed Free Internet to a program with an annual budget of $ 50 million, under which hundreds of projects are financed in a variety of countries – China, Cuba, Vietnam, and Russia. Surrealism continues to grow: this program was designed to project influence on other countries, but somehow ended up at the head of the American movement for privacy on the Internet. It finances activists and private researchers, collaborates with EFF, ACLU and even companies like Google. Wherever you look, eye-catching programs to protect the confidentiality, funded by this organization. These include the most widely distributed products today: Tor, a platform for anonymous Internet visits, including the so-called “dark web”, and Signal, the messaging application that is actively advocated by Edward Snowden. To keep these applications afloat, the government spent millions of dollars.

Security from strange hands
When Pavel Durov was seized VKontakte and forced to flee from Russia, the Western public welcomed him as a hero, a kind of modern Sakharov who fought for freedom and paid with his business. American adepts of crypto-security also took it with open arms. But very soon this idyll was destroyed, and the main culprit was Signal: a mobile cryptography created by a small and unclear company called Open Whisper Systems, also known as Quiet Riddle Ventures LLC.f0c48e905890332fb09969b6a51c5cf9.jpg

Messenger Signal

It was invented by a radical cryptographer named Moxie Marlinspike (although in reality he is most likely not even Matthew Rosenfeld or Mike Benham), gave a ticket to the Open Technology Fund, financed by the Supervisory Committee (which since 2013 has been uploaded almost 3 million dollars), while government infusions are keeping afloat. Despite close ties with the organization, sputtering from the CIA, the apostles of the American movement for crypto-security supported the application. “I use Singal every day. # on the FBI note, “Snowden said in his tweet to legions of supporters who immediately rushed to download this application. Marlinpike used Snowden’s praise to its fullest, proudly placing the verdict of a former NSA employee on the company’s website: “Use any Open Whisper Systems development.”

Thanks to this support, Signal has become the most massive messaging app among American journalists, politicians and activists – from anarchists and Marxists to fighters for the rights of African Americans. Now they are fond of using also oppositionists at the organization of actions against Trump. Signal has triumphantly entered even Silicon Valley: Marlinspike collaborates with the management of Facebook and Google, helping to integrate the cryptoarchitecture of the application into their own programs for communicating through mobile devices, including WhatsApp. It is significant that the integration of Signal in WhatsApp was approved by the Supervisory Board; the leadership of the propaganda body boasted that the state-funded instruments of crypto-security will be used by a billion people.

Despite the links between Open Whisper and the US authorities, authoritative fighters for confidentiality began to discourage people from using other means. This applies to Telegram with its special cryptographic methods, created by Pavel Durov’s brother, mathematician Nikolai. Even Snowden considered it necessary to scare off users from Telegram, advising political activists, journalists, dissidents, unmaskers – in short, all in a row – instead use Signal or even Facebook WhatsApp. “Telegram is by definition less secure than WhatsApp, which makes it dangerous for non-specialists,” Snowden wrote on Twitter, answering the question of a curious supporter.

But for an application designed to protect people from the scrutiny of the US government, Signal has a weird architecture that has already made other information security experts think hard. The algorithm for encryption Signal is considered flawless, but its server module for some reason works in the cloud service company Amazon, which, in turn, is a major contractor of the CIA. In addition, the program requires entering a real mobile phone number and granting access to all address book subscribers, which is somehow unexpected for the privacy application. Finally, Signal is installed on a cell phone through Google and Apple services, and both these companies help the NSA to keep track of users. “Google usually has root access, it’s basically. Google is still cooperating with the NSA and other special services, “writes Sunder Venema, a developer who leads information security courses for journalists. “I’m pretty sure that Google can use special updates or versions of Signal to track specific individuals, and those by naivety themselves will install a malicious program on a cell phone.” And given that Signal is usually used by political activists and journalists, the application turns into a clear label: let it encrypt messages, but it also labels users who have something to hide. The inscription in large letters: “I NEED TO PONABLE ME”.

Whatever it was, but if your opponent is the government of the United States, it does not matter what crypto applications you use. The last draining of documents on the CIA hacking tools on WikiLeaks showed that the department for mobile devices of this special service has developed many ways to intercept information from the phone even when using applications like Signal, WhatsApp and even Telegram. “These methods allow the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by integrating into smart phones and collecting audio and text data before applying encryption,” WikiLeaks notes.

Durov admits that his cryptography has its limitations. But the criticism of Telegram on the part of Snowden surprised him and annoyed him. According to Durov, he and his brother were very cautious about choosing cryptographic methods lobbied by American experts, especially after Snowden published NSA documents, which indicated that the agency secretly paid RSA, an influential computer company that used imperfect methods that NSA skillfully hack. Duros wondered if the same thing could happen to other popular encryption algorithms. Even more, they were alarmed when American experts on cryptography launched public attacks on Telegram in the media. “Their criticism was not based on the real weaknesses of our approach, but only on the fact that we did not use their preferred algorithms,” he says, “because there was no meaningful dialogue on cryptography, we began to realize that they pursued some other goal , and not a search for truth or increased security. ”

But the attacks continued. Snowden and his allies not only declared their confidence in Facebook, a company that oversees and cooperates with the NSA; they also supported the application, funded by the foreign policy department of the US national security apparatus. It was complete nonsense.

Durov was shocked. He told me that he can not understand why people trust an allegedly anti-government application, paid for by the government itself, from which it is called to protect.

I said that I completely share his perplexity. As I studied all these cryptoradicals financed by various offspring of the CIA, I continued to ask the same simple question, to which no one could give an intelligible answer: if applications such as Signal really undermine the NSA’s ability to watch citizens, then why does the US government continue their to finance? I tried to imagine how such an alliance between the government and corporations would be perceived by representatives of American technical circles and the media, if something like that happened in the Soviet Union. For example, the KGB would finance a secure fax line and suggest that Alexander Solzhenitsyn and dissident samizdat people use it to protect themselves from the attention of KGB agents. And Solzhenitsyn would not only believe the KGB, but he would also advise fellow dissidents such a line to use: “She is completely safe.” The idea of ​​the KGB in the capitalist West would be ruthlessly ridiculed, and Solzhenitsyn would be considered, at best, a puppet, and at worst a traitor. No matter how ridiculous this union of technology and state interests is under the guise of dissidence, in America it somehow worked.

While I expounded my analogies, Durov nodded in agreement: “I think it is no coincidence that we both understand the naivety of such thinking, and both were born in the USSR.”

The power of trust
What would I be preparing for when meeting with Durov, but not to political understanding. Judging by what I read in the press, our views on politics are diametrically opposed. He is a libertarian, who can throw a 5000 rubles bill on the street to watch how passers-by shuffle each other off to pick it up; who can write that Hitler and Stalin are no different from each other on the day when people in the former Soviet republics celebrate the victory over Hitler’s Germany.

But on a personal level, he turned out to be a pleasant and even shy person. For a representative of the world of cryptography, he turned out to be a great realist in terms of limitations in this field. The fanatical faith in technology, so characteristic of the representatives of the American movement for the confidentiality of information, is not at all there. And one more feature: Durov is a fighter.

Let’s start with the simple fact that he openly told about the details of the FBI’s attempts to bribe his team and force Telegram to secret cooperation. Although Durov himself tried to play down this case, in fact, his significance is great. Despite the forced flight from Russia, he did not yield to the American intelligence services and decided to fight on two fronts. Such an act is unusual and produces a deep impression. Most people who come into conflict with the Russian government and seek security in the West under the guise of modern dissidents usually begin to repeat Western propaganda, becoming thoughtless conductors of American interests, even in their worst form. As members of Pussy Riot, who fled Russia and criticized Vladimir Putin, and then slipped into photos with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As for cryptography, there is no certainty that Telegram is more secure than its competitors from the Silicon Valley. But even more so, there is no certainty that a security-funded campaign and a profit-bent campaign for confidentiality in the West can bring real results.

In reality, which sparked the life of Snowden, the protection of private information was placed on crypto applications. Because of this, we found ourselves in some kind of nightmarish paranoid game where ordinary citizens have no influence and they are forced to rely entirely on people and organizations creating algorithms for these crypto technologies. It all boils down to trust. Can you trust these people and organizations? A young Russian technocrat who quarreled with the Kremlin? A former American spy who fled to Russia? Fashionable crypto applications paid by the US State Department? Google and Facebook, collaborating with the NSA?

Confusion? Misunderstanding? This is the movement for protecting personal information in our time.




Collecting, translating, producing, and disseminating open source information that meets the needs of policymakers, the military, state and local law enforcement, operations officers, and analysts through-out Governments.
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