Privacy Snafu Exposes 42 Million ‘Telegram’ Records

Security researchers have discovered tens of millions of accounts from a third-party version of Telegram that were leaked online in another cloud misconfiguration.

Bob Diachenko and the Comparitech team found the exposed data on March 21. It had been posted to an Elasticsearch cluster, password-free, by a group called “Hunting system” in Farsi.

Although the cluster was deleted on March 25, a day after Diachenko informed the hosting provider, at least one user had apparently already posted it to a hacking forum.

That’s bad news, because the trove contained 42 million records from a third-party version of popular messaging app Telegram. They included user account IDs, phone numbers, names, and hashes and secret keys.

As Telegram has been banned in Iran since anti-government protests in 2018, the database could put users at risk of being singled out by the authorities as having something to hide.

Although the hashes and keys can’t be used to access accounts, third-party hackers could use the other information in financially motivated attacks, warned Comparitech.

“SIM swap attacks are one example. A SIM swap attack occurs when the attacker convinces a phone carrier to move a phone number to a new SIM card, allowing them to send and receive the victim’s SMS messages and phone calls. The attacker could then receive their one-time access verification codes, granting full access to app accounts and messages,” explained privacy advocate, Paul Bischoff.

“Affected users could also be at risk of targeted phishing or scams using the phone numbers in the database.”

This isn’t the first such privacy incident involving messaging users in the country. In 2016, hackers identified the user IDs, phone numbers and one-time verification codes of 15 million Telegram users after activation codes were likely intercepted by phone carriers.

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