This is a brand new Big Brother scare going viral as Microsoft’s Skype has been accused of spying on users. As bloggers and hackers warn, it might just be that Skype has fallen into FBI’s pressure to support the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
Back in May, Microsoft’s Skype announced it was making some changes. It was nothing of huge interest to the average user. Just things like moving Skype to Linux-based servers and changing how Skype routes calls. But over the past few weeks, bloggers and hackers grew concerned Skype might be spying on users’ video calls.
Why would Microsoft do that you ask? The FBI has been putting a lot of pressure on Skype and other online services to back them up and give law enforcement access to users’ data based on court or governmental orders. You’d think it’s only Big Brother paranoia, but a reporter from “Slate” pressured Skype into answering the rumors about it spying its users.
The answer Slate got wasn’t all that soothing to begin with. In fact, it only sparked more controversy among bloggers and hackers. The company said it “co-operates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible”. Hm…this statement does not go well with a previous one reading Skype’s “peer-to-peer architecture and encryption techniques” make it impossible for someone to eavesdrop on your private calls.
So, how would Skype spy on you? Tim Verry with Extreme Tech explained in a post published last week it would involve the use of supernodes. These are third-party computers that are used by Microsoft in routing calls and are making it easier for law enforcement to monitor your calls.
“In this way, the actual voice data would pass through the monitored servers and the call is no longer secure” explained Tim Verry. “It is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack, and it is made all the easier because Microsoft – who owns Skype and knows the keys used for the service’s encryption – is helping” he added.
Skype spokesman Chaim Haas talked about the use of supernodes in a brief interview with CNN. He avoided however to answer whether supernodes could allow Skype to spy on and record your calls.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to continually improve the Skype user experience, we developed supernodes, which can be located on dedicated servers within secure datacenters” he said.