Encrypted messaging app Telegram has become the "digital forefront" of the Russia-Ukraine war, according to cybersecurity researchers.
The app, which allows users to partake in group conversations and send direct messages that cannot be traced by third parties, has also become a hub of misinformation, Check Point Research (CPR) said in a report published Thursday.
"Telegram has become a digital forefront of the conflict, where people are choosing sides online," Oded Vanunu, head of products vulnerabilities research at Check Point, said in a statement. "We’re seeing people from all corners of the world organizing themselves and resources to support either Russia or Ukraine."
Some groups on Telegram, which do not have end-to-end encryption, are "coordinating cyberattacks to target Russia," while others "are serving as information and news hubs to report a raw side of the war" and "requesting funds to either support Ukraine or commit fraud," Vanunu said.
"All in all, we’ve seen a [six]-fold surge in Telegram groups themed on the Russia-Ukraine war the day Russia invaded Ukraine. I strongly recommend people to watch their Telegram activity closely and the types of people you may come in contact with," Vanunu said. "There’s a side on Telegram looking to take advantage of supporters of either Ukraine or Russia."
Groups of users on Telegram discussing the war have grown by "a few hundred-folds daily" on the app, peaking at 200,000 users per group, according to CPR.
Some fraudsters are using emotions surrounding the crisis to their advantage in asking for funds for the Ukrainian people. CPR suspects the requests and groups organizing such requests are fraudulent.
About 4% of the groups on Telegram that CPR observed "are geared toward donations to support a side of the current conflict, many of which are suspicious," the report states.
Russian cyberattack groups are also growing by the day to more than 250,000 users per group. Cyberattackers on Telegram are pointing to Russian targets. About a quarter of Telegram groups CPR observed try to get IT professionals, hackers and other tech experts to unite in their attacks against Russian individuals and websites.
Additionally, about 71% of the groups CPR investigated "are dedicated to news around the current conflict," much of which is not verified by real news sources. These groups sharing different versions of news … have increased significantly over the past two weeks. CPR noted that unverified "news" is "a form of psychological weapon, used to demoralize and influence morals."
Telegram did not immediately respond to an inquiry from FOX Business.
CPR suggests that users who do not want to fall subject to scams avoid clicking on unfamiliar links, beware of suspicious requests, avoid sending money to unknown sources and only consume news from trusted sources.