[conspire] Skype: Are you hearing me now?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Sep 29 16:09:30 PDT 2010

Two days ago, a vague Obama Administration initiative, i.e., a trial
balloon in the press, emerged to 'prepare to seek sweeping new
regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap
criminal and terrorism suspects is "going dark" as people increasingly
communicate online instead of by telephone.'

For a bunch of you, this has meant the proprietary Skype application,
because it's prepacked, ready to use, etc., etc.

There are genuine open source projects that can be used instead, i.e., 
GNU Telephony, Asterisk, and all that.  For IMing, it's pretty trivial
to add Off-the-Record (OTR) plugins.  See:

The LWN comment thread about the Internet-backdooring pre-announcement
has been mostly interesting (http://lwn.net/Articles/407303/).  For all
of you Skype users, hey, you're not just using Internet telephony;
you're on a _party line_ with NSA, Deuxieme Bureau, GCHQ, the Mafia, and
just about any other collection of spooks or two-bit criminals who care
to data-mine your calls:  

  "At a meeting with representatives of ISPs and the Austrian regulator
  on lawful interception of IP based services held on 25th June,
  high-ranking officials at the Austrian interior ministry revealed that
  it is not a problem for them to listen in on Skype conversations.

  "This has been confirmed to heise online by a number of the parties
  present at the meeting. Skype declined to give a detailed response to
  specific enquiries from heise online as to whether Skype contains a back
  door and whether specific clients allowing access to a system or a
  specific key for decrypting data streams exist. The response from the
  eBay subsidiary's press spokesman was brief, 'Skype does not comment on
  media speculation. Skype has no further comment at this time.' There
  have been rumours of the existence of a special listening device which
  Skype is reported to offer for sale to interested states."


Why do you care who listens in on your telephone calls?  One reason is:
You simply don't have to put up with that bullshit.  Just eschew
deliberately wiretapped crud like Skype, and _use genuine open source_.
But, beyond that:  To see what unpleasant results can ensue when you
have deliberate insecure telephone hardware and software to support
'lawful intercepts', read the fascinating story of what happened to
Vodafone Greece in 2005:

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