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 coöper­a­tion between the FBI, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, and Microsoft to enable gov­ern­ment access to user com­mu­ni­ca­tions via the intel­li­gence tool known as PRISM. That coöper­a­tion 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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