Telegram as one of your OSINT sources
As the crackdown on misinformation intensifies on traditional social media platforms, Telegram has emerged as a new sanctuary for free speech.
With over 700 million monthly users, it has shifted from being a platform primarily frequented by a mix of criminals, political dissidents, and various fringe groups to a mainstream communication tool.
The question that looms for cybersecurity teams is straightforward yet critical: How can we effectively conduct Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) on Telegram?
Understanding Telegram as a Source of Information
Telegram, the Dubai-based instant messaging app, has captivated users with its robust privacy features.
Unlike other platforms, Telegram’s Secret Chat mode offers end-to-end encryption, ensuring that conversations remain private.
The platform does not engage in user profiling for ads, maintaining a laudable commitment to user privacy. This has made it a favored tool for pro-democracy activists and, paradoxically, a hub rivaling the dark web for criminal activities.
The Rise of Telegram as a Hotspot for Cybercriminal Activities
While Telegram’s commitment to privacy is commendable, it has inadvertently attracted a slew of cybercriminal activities.
The platform’s architecture allows for the easy setup of online marketplaces, free from the risks of DDoS attacks, making it a haven for criminals.
From stolen gift cards and bank credentials to hacking tools and counterfeit goods, Telegram has become a burgeoning underground market.
Tools and Techniques for Conducting OSINT on Telegram
Conducting OSINT on Telegram requires a blend of traditional investigative methods and specialized tools:
- Tlgrm.eu: This tool offers a comprehensive directory of Telegram channels, aiding analysts in finding groups related to their investigation.
- Lyzem: A Telegram-focused search engine. A must-have for corporate analysts restricted from creating Telegram accounts.
- IntelX.io: A versatile search engine that can pull up overlooked data from Telegram’s archives.
- Xtea.io: Another Telegram search engine
- Teleteg: Another quick Telegram search engine
Converting a Telegram Channel into an RSS Feed
To continuously monitor Telegram channels, consider converting them into an RSS feed. This will enable real-time updates, allowing for faster response to emerging threats.
You can do this by using:
- Using the rss.app function (Rss.app)
- Telegram Channel to RSS (Github)
- Using InoReader Telegram function (InoReader)
Best Practices for Conducting OSINT on Telegram
- Data Verification: Always cross-reference information from multiple platforms to validate its authenticity.
- Legal Compliance: Ensure your investigation aligns with legal frameworks to maintain the investigation’s integrity.
- Documentation: Maintain comprehensive records for accountability and future investigations.
Leveraging OSINT Techniques to Uncover Threats on Telegram
- Keyword Monitoring: Catalog keywords related to potential cyber threats. Use these for focused searches within Telegram.
- Social Media Analysis: Platforms like Twitter and Reddit often serve as the first alert to emerging threats. Leverage them to get leads into covert Telegram channels.
- Use of OSINT Tools: Tools like Maltego and SpiderFoot can automate data collection, pulling in data from multiple platforms including Telegram.
- Collaborate with the Cybersecurity Community: Building relationships within the cybersecurity community can grant you access to invite-only Telegram channels, offering unparalleled insights.
Dark Web Monitoring
While Telegram is a surface web application, its undercurrents often flow deep into the realms of the dark web.
The two platforms share a symbiotic relationship: Telegram serves as a gateway or a showroom for services and goods that are eventually transacted in the anonymous corners of the dark web.
Think of Telegram as the ‘retail floor’ where samples are displayed, and the dark web as the ‘back office’ where the actual inventory is stored and more sensitive operations occur.
Parallel Monitoring is Non-Negotiable
The importance of parallel monitoring cannot be overstated. While Telegram may provide initial leads or even evidence of malicious activity, the actual payload—be it malware, illicit goods, or detailed plans—often resides on dark web platforms.
Monitoring both landscapes simultaneously offers a more comprehensive picture of a threat actor’s operations, from recruitment and planning to execution and profit-sharing.
Techniques for Effective Dark Web Monitoring
- Tor and Specialized Search Engines: Utilize the Tor browser to access the dark web safely, and employ search engines like Ahmia or DuckDuckGo on Tor to find relevant forums and marketplaces.
- Forum Scraping: Use web scraping tools to automatically collect posts and threads from dark web forums. This can help in the early identification of potential threats.
- Dark Web Crawlers: Employ dark web crawlers designed to navigate the complex and often hidden architecture of dark web sites. These crawlers can uncover hidden services and assets, providing a more in-depth view.
- Cross-Referencing: When a piece of information or a potential threat is identified on Telegram, use specific keywords or cryptographic hashes to search dark web forums and marketplaces for related activities.
The Imperative of Telegram in Today’s OSINT
Telegram’s rise as a platform of choice for various groups, both benign and malicious, renders it an unavoidable domain for modern OSINT operations.
Adopt a methodical approach, leverage specialized tools, and adhere to best practices — doing so, cybersecurity professionals can unearth actionable insights, staying one step ahead.