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Skype spies on chats and calls?

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 10/21/2008

There are a lot of things being said from lots of people when it comes to Skype security - eavesdrop on chats, special devices, backdoor codes. Rumours or not, they are too many for everything to be normal. Besides, there is a small piece of truth in every rumour.

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    Skype may have possibly crossed the line

    A massive dispute has begun on the internet. People are discussing the security around popular messenger Skype and if it really has a special backdoor that allows Skype and individual governments to eavesdrop on the conversations between the normal users.

    The cause of the dispute, or in other words where it all started from, was a statement from the Minister for Internal Affairs of Australia. In a meeting on 25 July this year, there was a discussion about spying on Voice over IP (VoIP) services. He assured us that the government can easily spy on our Skype conversations. We have to admit that those are quite serious words coming from an official representative of Australian government.

    Besides, there is another rumour about backdoor code integrated in Skype. As an evidence, the sympathizers of this speculation pointed that the protocol used by Skype is private and the company doesn’t reveals the details regarding the way it works. (Open source anyone?)

    Additionally, Skype security was vastly discussed and analysed in 2006 on a conference of computer security – Black Hat Europe.

    There were a lot of shortcomings regarding Skype's security, and most of them were pointed out. For example, the program is transferring and receiving data all the time, even when Skype is idle. It continuously communicates with other computers in your contact list, pretending to check their online status and handshake, but is it really needed? Also, other than the possibility of backdoor code integrated in the protocol, the owners have access to the key that allows decoding chat sessions and calls which is in itself kind of suspicious.

    I guess the rumours about backdoors in Skype will never stop coming. According to one of them, there is a special gadget/device for eavesdrop on calls, invited by Skype developers themselves and consigned to the Special Forces for governmental usage. I actually find this normal, as any service is obligated to grant access to the government when it comes to crime investigations.

    We also have to point out that in February last year Skype was trying to read data from the BIOS, trying or pretending to identify the related computer. The developers claimed this to be an error, so they fixed it in the next version.