Chinese Snoop on Skype, but Are They Alone?

Taiwan News speculates that other countries may be “Skypetapping” as well.

Skype’s 338 million users across the world are difficult to wiretap because calls are supposedly encrypted.

While the recent case against China adds to their PR and image problems, countries like the United States have been petitioning for years to gain access to Internet phone calls. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received a favorable court ruling in 2006 allowing them to gain access to telephone information, but “it’s not clear whether it applies to systems like Skype that skip telephone networks.” The German technology site Heise Online reported ealier this year that officials from Austria were able to listen to Skype conversations as well.

“For a couple of years, maybe more, people have had the suspicion … that Skype pretends to be secure but actually isn’t,” said Bruce Schneier, the chief security technology officer of BT Group PLC, the British telecom carrier.

Skype has earlier given contradictory statements on the eavesdropping issue.

See also a response to related news reports from the Skype president:

It is common knowledge that censorship does exist in China and that the Chinese government has been monitoring communications in and out of the country for many years. This, in fact, is true for all forms of communication such as emails, fixed and mobile phone calls, and instant messaging between people within China and between China and other countries. TOM, like every other communications service provider operating in China, has an obligation to be compliant if they are to be able to operate in China at all.

In April 2006, Skype publicly disclosed that TOM operated a text filter that blocked certain words in chat messages, and it also said that if the message is found unsuitable for displaying, it is simply discarded and not displayed or transmitted anywhere. It was our understanding that it was not TOM’s protocol to upload and store chat messages with certain keywords, and we are now inquiring with TOM to find out why the protocol changed.

Skype keywords


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