A darknet forum has released a database with the telephone numbers and unique identifiers of millions of users of the messaging app Telegram, reports the IT news site Kod.ru.
The file includes approximately 900 megabytes of data. While the number of users listed in the database remains unknown, screenshots from Kod.ru indicate that the file includes more than 40 million entries.
Kod.ru journalists were able to search the file for telephone numbers using Telegram usernames, and even found members of their editorial staff listed in the database.
Telegram’s press service confirmed the existence of the database, but noted that more than half of the merged contacts are outdated. Almost 70 percent of the accounts in the database are Telegram users from Iran, while the remaining 30 percent are from Russia.
Telegram reported that the information leaked through the built-in contact import function offered during registration. The company began to deal with this issue in 2019, after complaints from users from Hong Kong. In an attempt to resolve this issue, the company gave its app users the option to hide the connection between their Telegram account and their phone number.
On June 18, the Russian authorities lifted restrictions on access to Telegram, which had been formally blocked in Russia since April 2018, following the network’s refusal to surrender encryption keys to the Federal Security Service.
The Deputy Head of the Communications Ministry Alexey Volin said that the restrictions on Telegram were lifted, in part “due to the technical impossibility of blocking” the messaging app.