Telegram has come up with a new ‘People Nearby’ feature that shows a list of other nearby users and their approximate distance to you. This feature helps you create group chats based on geographic locations. Now the question that remains whether is this new ‘People Nearby’ feature is safe and does it have any security risks.
Telegram’s ‘People Nearby’ feature is by default turned off and must be enabled by the user, but it’s an idiosyncratic addition for an app that markets itself as a private, end-to-end encrypted messaging service. According to security researcher Ahmed Hassan, it’s a significant security risk. Let us explain to you as you why Telegram’s ‘People Nearby’ feature is not safe and why it should not be used.
The internet is filled with, many scammers and one of the biggest threats that this causes that you may open up to potential scams as users are able to fake their geographic location in Telegram. Not only this “Many scammers spoof their location and try to sell fake bitcoin investments, hacking tools, SSNs that are used for unemployment fraud, and so on. Ahmed Hassan in his blog explained saying, ‘The number of illegal activities I saw there make the Silkroad look like amateurs ran it’.
Hassan also found out a massive flaw in the ‘People Nearby’ feature that could let bad actors triangulate the exact location of other app-users by using two accounts with fake addresses. This exposes users to hacks, stalking, and much worse situations. And till date Telegram has shown no intentions of fixing the bug in the feature.
When Ahmed Hassan reported the threat to Telegram the company replied saying that it won’t be patched. In fact, Telegram told Hassan that discovering a user’s specific location is an “expected” outcome of the People Nearby feature in certain cases. This kind of response from Telegrams is extremely unexpected since it should be focusing on such details being an encrypted messaging app that sells itself on its privacy features.
Telegram has been the most secure chatting app compared to some out there especially if you compare it with Whatsapp and Signal. The new ‘People Nearby’ feature won’t pose a threat to you as long as you haven’t turned it on. It is best recommended that you do use Telegram’s People Nearby feature.