MOSCOW — The man who took on the Kremlin and won is rarely heard from: a tech nomad in self-imposed exile with a reclusive aura and signature all-black attire as a nod to “The Matrix.”
Two years ago, Pavel Durov refused to grant Russian security services access to users’ encrypted messages on his popular Telegram messaging app, then a favorite of Russian opposition groups. The reply from authorities was either submit or become wiped off the country’s digital map.
Neither happened. Using a combination of wily cyber-dodging tactics and the force of Telegram’s growing reach, the 35-year-old Russian-born entrepreneur humiliated and outmaneuvered Russia’s state telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor.
Scores of unrelated websites were tangled up as collateral damage in Telegram’s hide-and-seek with Russia’s Internet minders. But, through it all, Telegram continued to work — so well that even state agencies and government officials, including Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, continued using it.