Don’t Use Telegram’s New People Nearby Feature

Telegram’s new People Nearby feature shows a list of other nearby users and their approximate proximity to you, allowing you to create group chats based on geographic location. This feature is disabled by default and must be manually enabled by the user, but it is a kind of add-on for an app that markets itself as a private messaging service with end-to-end encryption – and, according to security researcher Ahmed Hassan, is a serious security threat.

Users can fake their geographic location on Telegram, exposing them to potential scammers. “Many scammers fake their location and try to sell fake bitcoin investments, hacking tools, SSNs that are used to scam unemployment, and so on. Due to the amount of illegal activity I have seen, the Silk Road looks like it is being run by amateurs, ”Hasan explained in a recent blog post .

Even worse, Hassan discovered a flaw in the People Nearby feature that allows attackers to pinpoint the exact location of other users of the app using two accounts with fake addresses. This opens up the possibility for users to be hacked, stalked, or worse – and Telegram announced that there were no plans to fix the problem. Hasan reported the Telegram vulnerability, but the company says it will not be fixed. In fact, Telegram told Hasan that detecting a user’s specific location is in some cases the “expected” result of the People Nearby feature. The answer seems out of the ordinary for an encrypted messaging app that sells itself at the expense of privacy features. It would even be helpful to add a more detailed warning that other users might find your exact location, but that doesn’t seem to happen either.

To be honest, Telegram is generally more secure than other chat apps , and since people nearby are disabled by default, this might not seem like a major issue. However, users may inadvertently turn on this feature, thinking that they are simply broadcasting their general proximity to someone else, rather than their exact location. If you value your privacy, do not use the People Nearby feature in Telegram.

[ TechRadar ]


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