Secure messaging service Telegram says it will appeal a Russian Supreme Court order to hand over encryption keys to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – the FSB.

Last year, the company was fined a relatively paltry US$14,000 (800,000 roubles) for refusing to decrypt user messages.

However, that wasn’t the end of the matter. The case was referred to the Supreme Court’s Judicial College of Administrative Cases on 26 December last year, and judge Alla Nazarova handed down the latest order (in Russian) on March 20.

The order formalises the FSB’s right to order a communications provider to provide information “necessary for decoding received, transmitted, delivered and (or) processed electronic messages of users”.

Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, has given Telegram 15 days to hand over the encryption keys.

The company’s founder, Pavel Durov, has long held that since it doesn’t hold users’ encryption keys, it’s impossible to comply with orders to hand them over. Last year, he said the FSB’s demand was “not technically feasible”.

Moscow passed its crypto-busting legislation in 2016, making it an administrative crime to withhold encryption keys from the FSB.

Bloomberg reported that Telegram’s lawyer, Ramil Akhmetgaliev, said a planned appeal could last until northern summer, and any decision to completely block the service would require a separate court order. ®

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