Yipes! Skype can now wiretap your video calls
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Yipes! Skype can now wiretap your video calls

Redmond : WA : USA | Jul 24, 2012 at 1:15 PM PDT
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Skype News on outage 'supernode' issue, what is wrong and going on?

Back when Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, many users figured it was just a matter of time before the software giant would find a way to "ruin" Skype. For gun runners, drug dealers, scofflaws, and big-time privacy advocates, that day of reckoning may have just arrived. A recent change to Skype's back-end architecture allows the wiretapping, monitoring, and recording of your Skype instant messages and video calls.

This does not mean that Skype is tracking or monitoring your calls. This is just to say that they now can do so if they choose.

A bombshell story on Slate (which also used to be owned by Microsoft!) details how Skype can now intercept and eavesdrop upon video calls. Skype insists that the changes were made only to improve the user experience for their growing client base, but hackers and privacy rabble-rousers point out that Skype does indeed now have the technical means to wiretap and record their users.

They didn't always. Up until March of 2012, Skype had always been structured exclusively as a peer-to-peer network -- not unlike the file-sharing applications that you might or might not use daily to download free software and "Game of Thrones" episodes. The connections were powered by the users' systems. When the user's system didn't have enough juice to power the connection, a "super-user" system would be enlisted to access another, more powerful user's system. These super-user systems are called "supernodes".

All calls were highly encrypted, and no calls were hosted on Skype's own servers. So if and when law enforcement came calling with a wiretap request, Skype could always say, "Sorry, we can't. This call is not hosted on our servers."

Make no mistake -- a large part of Skype's appeal is that callers can remain anonymous and untrackable.

This is no longer the case. Microsoft has added several of their own servers to act as supernodes -- so now many Skype calls are indeed hosted on servers which can be accessed by the parent company or law enforcement.

In Skype's defense, it is 100% accurate and true that their service has suffered a few outages, and that the new server architecture will go a long way to prevent future outages. Microsoft is trying to make money off this thing, and they have every reason to want faster and more reliable Skype connections.

It is also 100% accurate and true that the FBI wants backdoor acccess into your Facebook and Skype accounts (they've come right out and asked), that Microsoft is willing to wiretap upon request (they have a patent called "Legal Intercept") and that the FBI has figured out how to intercept Skype calls (they already do this).

So all you gun runners, drug dealers, scofflaws, and big-time privacy advocates out there -- you might want to look into a new internet telephony service.

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From: TechTricksy
Joe Kukura is based in San Francisco, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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