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Instant Chat Apps A New Hotbed For Cybercriminal Activity

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Last Updated on August 1, 2021 by Admin

The increased use of mobile devices for communication has made instant chat apps a new hotbed for cybercriminal activity as conversations are protected by end-to-end encryption.

According to Statista, the top 5 most popular global messenger apps as of January 2021, based on number active monthly users, are:

  1. WhatsApp 2 billion users
  2. Facebook Messenger 1.3 billion users
  3. WeChat 1.213 billion users
  4. QQ 617 million users
  5. Telegram 500 million users
instant chat apps a new hotbed

Why the use of instant chat apps?

Authorities continue to take down illegal websites on the Darkweb and this paralyses operations of cybercriminals.

One way maintain communication is to migrate to instant chat apps and leverage on security features like end-to-end encryption to evade detection.

Messaging apps form part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines as it is part of the Deep web so no trail is left.

Cybercriminals can continue with their operations and authorities have to hack into chats in order to access the information that is exchanged.

In 2020, a joint operation involving Britain, France and Netherlands successfully hacked into Encrochat, a chat messenger set up specifically to facilitate crime-related activities.

In the process, more than 746 criminals were apprehended in what was code-named Operation Venetic.

Encrochat servers were shut down and the app has since been deactivated.

Another feature of these instant chat apps is end-to-end encryption where messages are visible only to the sender and receiver.

This is a feature available by default in WhatsApp although questions have been raised concerning the security of the platform.

Telegram is another chat app that has a feature to allow for a secret chat and these messages cannot be forwarded.

Telegram fraud scheme

Telegram messaging app is also heavily used by cybercriminals and in February 2021, Sift uncovered an elaborate scheme run using Telegram app targeting restaurants or food delivery services.

To execute the attack, cybercriminals post in a Telegram group indicating that they can buy food at a heavily discounted price of 60-75% off.

Interested food lovers place an order and give details of place of delivery.

All the chats are done using the Telegram app.

Once the order is placed, the fraudster either creates an account on the restaurant’s website and uses stolen credit cards to make a purchase, or uses a hacked account with funds.

Once consumers discover unauthorized transactions on their credit cards, merchants have no choice but to refund the consumers or face litigation.

It’s a challenge for restaurants and food delivery services in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.

These businesses rely on application-based order and delivery of food, so cybercriminals use the payment fraud scheme to make money.


Online scammers fall in another group of cybercriminals that cause serious distress as they prey even on elderly people.

If you randomly join groups on WhatsApp or Telegram, chances are your number ends up in the hands of scammers.

In some cases, a scammer joins a group to lure unsuspecting victims into sending cash or giving up personal details.

The modus operandi varies but you need to be alert when chatting with an individual you haven’t met.


It’s hard to find an area on the internet that hasn’t been infiltrated by cybercriminals.

Although some criminals are well-established, committing fraud on a large scale, there are also low-level fraudsters who pounce on any opportunity to make a quick buck.

One way to stay secure and anonymous on the web is to use a trusted VPN.

This encrypts all your data and gives you a peace of mind while your are browsing the net.

  • Quick benefits of a VPN are:
  • Anonymity while browsing
  • Security
  • Prevents bandwidth throttling
  • Unblocks restricted sites and apps

Use a VPN to take back your freedom on the internet and limit your exposure to the bad guys.

Which messaging app do you use? Leave comments below and share the post with your friends n social media.

Tech writer and VPN expert. DIY enthusiast and loves anything to do with space science.

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