Telegram Offers $200k in Bitcoin for Cracking its Encrypted Messages

Telegram is offering a $200,000 prize in bitcoin to anyone who manages to beat its encryption protocol.

AccessTimeIconDec 20, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 12, 2022 at 12:42 p.m. UTC
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If you are not an early adopter but you are still hoping to cash in on bitcoin, there is a way to win $200,000 worth of the currency.

However, you will need to be the 21st century equivalent of Alan Turing to pull it off.

Telegram, a super secure messaging service developed by two Russian entrepreneurs, is offering a $200,000 prize in bitcoin to anyone who manages to beat its encryption protocol. This is basically their way of saying that it is practically impossible to crack.

To prove their point, Telegram developers Pavel and Nikolai Durov have started sending private messages containing an email address. Anyone who cracks the code and manages to read the address can claim his or hers prize by sending an email to the address. The company's website states:

"Telegram backer, Pavel Durov, will give $200,000 in BTC to the first person to break Telegram' encrypted protocol. Starting today, each day Paul (+79112317383) will be sending a message containing a secret email address to Nick (+79218944725). In order to prove that Telegram crypto was indeed deciphered and claim your prize, send an email to the secret email address from Paul’s message."

To make sure that spammers don’t claim the prize, the message must contain the entire text of the intercepted message, the applicant’s address and a detailed explanation of the attack.

White hat controversy

Offering prizes to white hat hackers who participate in penetration testing is nothing new, but offering such a prize in bitcoin is a first.

However, some in the white hat community dislike the idea. A lively discussion erupted on Hacker News, featuring many critical comments from ethical hackers, like josephlord, who saw the Telegram crypto contest as a publicity stunt devised by people with a "blindness and an arrogance that could prove fatal".

Some argued that it could be possible to read the message without actually breaking the protocol.

Of course, a substantial prize is up for grabs, so if these claims are true, those making them should have no trouble picking up an easy $200,000.

Flawed review or possible PR coup?

Telegram announced the competition after some questions were raised about its security. The developers were quick to deny such claims, namely an analysis by security expert Geoffroy Couprie

Both Pavel and Nikolai Durov insist Couprie’s review was inaccurate and fundamentally flawed. The brothers then decided to put their money where their mouth is and offer the $200,000 prize.

If Couprie or one of his supporters wins it, they will be vindicated. If not, the Durov’s will score a PR coup.

Just in case the lucky winner, if there ever is one, decides not to claim the prize in bitcoins, Pavel Durov says he will be willing to pay in dollars.

On a side note, the Russian Federal Guard Service (FSO) which is the Russian equivalent of the US Secret Service, has apparently reverted to typewriters for some applications.

According to official procurement documents published in July, the FSO is planning to spend 486,000 roubles on electric typewriters.

They may be noisy and impractical, but they also happen to be completely unhackable.


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