Terrorist group Islamic State is using Telegram, a smartphone messaging app with encryption capabilities, as a terrorism helpdesk to trade ideas and strategies, reports suggest.
IS have used Telegram to respond to the recent declaration of "war" by infamous hacking group Anonymous. On a Telegram channel with thousands of followers, IS declared themselves the "owners of the virtual world".
A means of hiding digital information, encryption has become a hot topic in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, with various governments and agencies using the tragedy as a way to introduce new laws that would force tech companies to hand over their encryption keys.
It remains unconfirmed whether encrypted communications were directly used by the terrorists in Paris. However, it has been revealed this week that IS has been reliant on encryption apps to exchange information and advice, in much the same way an office worker would with an IT helpdesk.
Alex Kassirer, a counter-terrorism analyst with the New York-based private intelligence firm Flashpoint, said that IS had begun using Telegram broadcast channels to send press releases aimed at recruiting and inspiring followers.
Some of the dozens of channels set up had 10,000 followers or more, said Rita Katz, director of extremist monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group, based in Bethesda, Maryland. On Wednesday afternoon some of those channels could not be accessed, and a message was displayed saying they were no longer available.
IT security expert Ty Miller likens the cancellation of these channels to a whack-a-mole approach to stopping terrorist communication.
"With so many avenues to go down for encrypted communication it's almost impossible to stop it," Mr Miller said.
Mr Miller opposed Telegram's approach of removing the channels as the most effective measure.
"Shutting down these channels forces these criminals to move and change their method of communication. That doesn't stop them; it just makes them harder to catch. Keeping the channels open and using them to find the terrorists would be a better strategy," Mr Miller said.
The power of these encrypted applications and their prominence within terrorist organisations gives some weight to the argument that governments should be given "backdoor" access to these products.
A new report from the Manhattan District Attorney even calls for all mobile operating systems to have "backdoor" accessibility for authorities, which would be available with the attainment of a warrant.
Whether or not Australia will follow suit is uncertain, however our new data retention laws are certainly a step in that direction.