Skype proves me right on security
Jul 11th, 2013 by Ken Hagler

NSA taps Skype chats, newly published Snowden leaks confirm.

Skype audio and video chats, widely regarded as resistant to interception thanks to encryption, can be wiretapped by American intelligence agencies, according to a new report in The Guardian. The report appears to contradict claims by Microsoft that they have not provided the contents of Skype communications to the government.

In a story published Thursday, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, The Guardian offers some detail about extensive cooperation between the FBI, the National Security Agency, and Microsoft to enable government access to user communications via the intelligence tool known as PRISM. That cooperation included, according to the leaked NSA documents, enabling access to e-mails and chats, the SkyDrive cloud storage service, and Skype audio and video calls.

The Guardian hasn’t published the documents on which this story is based, but has instead quoted from them.

[Ars Technica]

This is completely unsurprising. I’ve been warning about Skype’s insecurity since 2005.

Bad news for Skype
Jun 19th, 2011 by Ken Hagler

Skype fires several managers after Microsoft deal clears. Although Microsoft has made Skype a separate division within its organization and has promised continued support for its existing structure, the cuts are unlikely to assuage fears that Microsoft may reshape Skype in a way that hurts non-Windows platforms or Skype itself. [Electronista]

They certainly aren’t assuaging my fears any. I jettisoned my overpriced PSTN service in favor of Skype six years ago and have generally been happy with it, but even before the Microsoft purchase their support for OS X was indifferent and for iOS downright bad. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Skype become Windows-only in the future. Not only that, Microsoft has a history of buying perfectly good products and wrecking them.

Bad news for Skype users
May 27th, 2011 by Ken Hagler

The big news this month is that Microsoft is buying Skype. That’s bad news for me, as I replaced my old-fashioned landline with Skype years ago. While I was already using it mostly on my Windows machine, I did also occasionally make Skype calls from my Mac laptop and my iPad. Skype was already somewhat indifferent in their support of Apple OSes (they never did release an iPad-specific version), and we can expect that to get worse or be dropped entirely once the purchase goes through. We can also expect them to ruin the Windows version with thousands of “features” that nobody wants.

Encrypted voice and IM for Android
May 27th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

End-to-End Encrypted Cell Phone Calls.

Android app. (Slashdot thread.)

[Schneier on Security]

From the article:

RedPhone uses ZRTP, an open source Internet voice cryptography scheme created by Phil Zimmermann, inventor of the widely-used Pretty Good Privacy or PGP encryption.


TextSecure uses a similar scheme developed by cryptographers Ian Goldberg and Nikita Borisov known as “Off The Record” to exchange scrambled text messages.

This means that you could talk securely to anyone using Zfone on a computer, and IM securely to anyone with Adium or another app that supports the OTR protocol.

There’s also this rather important distinction from Skype, the “security” of which I’ve criticized before:

Whisper Systems’ apps aren’t the first to bring encrypted VoIP to smartphones. But apps like Skype and Vonage don’t publish their source code, leaving the rigor of their security largely a matter of speculation.

Telephones are annoying
Feb 18th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

If your telephone connection is so bad that you have to shout into your phone in the middle of the night to talk to your friends in Korea, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to get rid of the phone and switch to Skype.

No such luck
Apr 14th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

L@@K: eBay spinning off Skype, IPO coming in 2010. companion photo for L@@K: eBay spinning off Skype, IPO coming in 2010

Over the weekend, rumors surfaced that Skype’s founders, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, were attempting to buy the VoIP service back from eBay. It turns out that, yes, eBay is intent on getting rid of Skype, but it won’t be sold right back to its founders. Instead, the online auction giant will spin off the VoIP service via an IPO some time in 2010.

When eBay first purchased Skype from Zennström and Friis in September 2005, we were skeptical of the synergies eBay hoped to realize from the purchase. With the spinoff announcement, it looks as though eBay has realized this as well. “Skype is a great stand-alone business with strong fundamentals and accelerating momentum,” said eBay CEO, John Donahoe in a statement. “But it’s clear that Skype has limited synergies with eBay and PayPal. We believe operating Skype as a stand-alone publicly traded company is the best path for maximizing its potential.”

Click here to read the rest of this article
[Ars Technica]

That’s unfortunate, as it means the Skype will remain an American company under the thumb of the Evil Empire.

Possible good news
Apr 13th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Four years later, Skype’s founders looking to buy it back. companion photo for Four years later, Skype's founders looking to buy it back

The popular VoIP service Skype started out as an independent company, and it may soon end up the same way. Skype’s founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, are reportedly looking for ways to buy the company back from eBay, after having sold it to the auction giant in 2005. eBay may be open to such a deal too, as the two companies have had trouble meshing right from the start.

Zennstrom and Friis sold Skype to eBay in 2005 for US$2.6 billion in cash and stock, with the possibility of an additional $1.5 billion payout if certain financial goals were met. At the time, eBay planned to integrate Skype’s technologies into its online auction business, providing buyers with a “click to call” button on auctions so that they could ask questions and communicate with sellers. eBay also postulated that it could use Skype on its own customer support site, giving consumers a problem-solving option in addition to eBay’s Web interface.

Click here to read the rest of this article
[Ars Technica]

I’m hoping that this sale happens. I don’t have much use for telephone service, but when I do I use Skype, and I’d really prefer it if any telecommunications service I use weren’t owned by Americans.

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