Russia Experiments With More Precise Technology to Block Telegram Messenger

August 30, 2018 Updated: August 30, 2018

MOSCOW—Russia is experimenting with more precise technology to block specific online services without unintentionally hitting other internet traffic, after Moscow failed in its attempt to shut down banned messaging service Telegram.

Telegram has been banned in Russia because it refused to comply with a court order to allow access by security services to users’ encrypted messages.

While authorities started trying to block the service in April, they inadvertently severed Russian users’ access to a slew of unrelated online services, including voice calls on the Viber messaging service, cloud-based applications for Volvo cars, and apps that control Xiaomi video cameras.

Because of that hiccup, the attempt to block Telegram was put on hold, and the service is still accessible.

Since Aug. 6, Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor and the state security agency FSB have been testing systems designed to allow more precise blocking of individual services, according to the minutes of a meeting by officials to discuss the plan.

Anton Pinchuk, co-owner of Russian technology company Protei, which, according to the minutes, was invited to take part in the testing, confirmed to Reuters that the testing was taking place. He said his firm declined to participate.

The earlier attempt to block Telegram involved targeting Internet Protocol addresses operated by Amazon, Google, and others that host Telegram traffic. The problem was that these IP addresses often host traffic for multiple other services that were also affected.

The systems being tested now use a technology called Deep Packet Inspection. The technology operates in a more surgical way, analyzing Internet traffic, identifying the data flows of a particular services, and blocking them.

However, executives at two of the companies invited to take part said initial tests weren’t successful, because services other than the ones being targeted were still being blocked unintentionally.