Microsoft and Skype set to allow backdoor eavesdropping

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Skype and Microsoft have managed to leapfrog common sense and build a backdoor into your favourite VOIP application. It is called Lawful Interception and is part of a new patent which Microsoft filed back in 2009, but is now preparing to unleash itself into our world due to its recent approval.

Lawful Interception means that government agencies can, without your permission, begin tracking your Skype conversations. Calls can be covertly recorded and used against you in any circumstance. It is legal, it is frightening and it is coming to a voice over IP application near you.

I understand where Microsoft is coming from. They are obliged, by law, to provide some sort of tracking tool for the authorities who require these specific services. The US law, set by CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act), states that all telecommunications operators must enable their hardware and software for surveillance tracking. What is hard to understand is why Microsoft is so willing to open up its software for backdoor exploits. This creates a situation which welcomes exploits and willingly turns your computer into a revolving door for hackers.

Microsoft claims that Legal Intercept gently smoothes over the holes which exist in our current telecommunications setup. POTS or Plain Old Telephone Services uses a different monitoring system and one which is far too archaic for VOIP. If Microsoft manages to successfully implement Legal Intercept then it may just hold the rights to the world’s most powerful monitoring system. This is obliviously one of Microsoft’s main goals for its invasive system.

If you are feeling powerless, join the club. You could uninstall Skype, because it remains one of the best, if not the best, VOIP application. After years of use, are we now expected to sit back and relax as our privacy is invaded? India is not as impartial as I am and have warned Skype that if it does not fix its laws relating to Legal Interception then Skype will risk being blocked in India; as this is a market of 1.2-billion potential users, Microsoft will have to work hard to please the Indian telecommunication committees and remain in its good graces.

Legal Interception is not only pervasive in Skype, but will soon be in your email accounts too. The Egyptian government, famous for breaking the privacy laws of its citizens, recently ended a five-month trial of the Legal Interception application in conjunction with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and various other webmail providers. The software then has the further option of planting its own version of a Trojan horse executable which can be passed on to any computer via social sharing, or portable drives. In yet another irritating blow, Legal Interception will also allow targeted ads based on our user preferences to invade our screens.

Skype has more than 200-million users and, since its inception, it has been exceptionally secretive regarding its security protocols and have refused to reveal any details to the public. It has effectively asked its users to trust it, no matter what it throws at them. Microsoft cannot deny the FBI or the CIA the ability to tap calls. It is therefore placed in the precarious position of infuriating either the user or the government which wishes to track the user.

In a Nutshell: You can uninstall Skype if anonymous tracking enrages you. Otherwise, enjoy a more monitored VOIP existence. Regardless of the steps we take to cover our activities, nothing can keep us out of the spotlight of the tracking tools.

Image courtesy of: teckology.wordpress.com

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  • http://profiles.google.com/andrew.craucamp Andrew Craucamp

    This is completely unacceptable. What percentage of Skype users are actually American? How can they justify monitoring the entire world just because the United States has irrational privacy laws?

  • http://twitter.com/dunnyone Steven

    The laws are so shady on both sides that it barely matters what the privacy laws are :(

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mubashir-Ayaz/100000608227955 Mubashir Ayaz

    Microsoft and Skype set to allow backdoor eavesdropping ?
    Click to check more details

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  • http://www.innovationbydesign.co.za Entrepreneurship

    I think this is going to be bad for business for Skype,people need privacy online.

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  • Leezzack

    This is like saying putting up security cameras in places of convenience at airports to monitor drug smugglers nd terrorists throwing PRIVACY into the gutter

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  • Guilherme D

    This is illegal in Brazil. You can only monitor/record someone’s calls with a judge’s authorization. What are they gonna do about it?

  • http://drwho.virtadpt.net/ The Doctor

    There are alternatives out there which do not have include surveillance capability and which are too decentralized for effective monitoring.  I’ve been using Mumble (http://mumble.sourceforge.net/) for a couple of years and I’m quite pleased with it.  There are lots of public Mumble servers out there, encryption is mandatory (and cannot be deactivated), and the client runs on a large number of platforms.  Both client and server cost nothing (F/OSS, BSD license).

  • Anonymous

    This continuing invasion of privacy is bipartisan.  Yet another reason I vote Green Party.

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  • Vladilyich

    I have used a version of PGP for over a decade that I modified to use 512-bit encryption.  It’s not 100%, but I can modify it again to use 1024-bit encryption.  That would take the entire computing power of the NSA over 6 months to decrypt.

    I also use a voice scrambler for my VOIP phone.  Both were extremely inexpensive and work well with no loss.  I also automatically switch proxy servers ever hour to one of a dozen other countries.  That makes intercept difficult.

    The last time I had a visit from the FBI was a bit over five years ago.  They were pissed that I have basically closed my computer to them and homeland security.  They wanted me to go downtown to discuss their problem.  I politely asked for their warrant and closed the door.  They haven’t bothered me since.  I check my system weekly for FBI installed keyloggers and haven’t found any yet, but I will say that I was turned away the last time I tried to fly.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZIJ733FRVRTG2UE7RSMUFP53RU Navy-vet

    How is Earthlink handling this?  Juno?  The other small fry?  Or do the little ones have to go along?  I can hardly wait for the nonhackable software being developed by youthful engineers working in OCCUPY.  Hurry up.

  • Vladilyich

    The little guys rent bandwidth on the backbone which NSA has full access to.

  • Meh

    Good job throwing your vote into the garbage. 

  • Meh

    Good job throwing your vote into the garbage. 

  • The Kaz

    Anarchy!

  • The Kaz

    Anarchy!

  • Meridith

     Wow, wtf do you do online?

  • Anonymous

    So the NSA and others want to hear me make sexy talk with my women on the side? Why?

  • Anonymous

    Indeed, both parties are corrupted and are controlled by the same criminals. We will continue to lose everything if the two fraud parties continue their death grip on america. The ramp up of the culture wars is a big con to distract folks from the truth both parties are owned by the same criminals starting with wall street and security state corporations.

  • Anonymous

    Indeed, check new yorker expose on thomas drake, the privacy laws are all ignored by our security state when the privacy of the 99% is at stake. We have crossed the rubicon and our government, combined with criminal corporations, dictate thar no rule of law applied to the 1%, everything has been stolen from us.

  • http://twitter.com/Anon_Messenger Anon_Messenger

     I sometimes operate off of a VPN, use a IP Spoofer, a Mac Address Spoofer, browse through TOR Browser and through 3 other proxies in the URL, at least one of which (since I use any 3 of many each session) that offers full Anonymity. I also change my identity every 15 minutes (or as I see fit) and I do not enter any true personal information. It’s not so much that I’m doing anything that I don’t want to be caught, but more the principle of the matter.

  • Asdiniw

    f*** new world order has some background to it…. gov wants to control the whole world delete skype, delete Gmail, delete Facebook be invisible it’s what most people should do to survive ;)

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  • Anonymous

    So what would be a “constructive” vote?  Democratic?!

    By voting Democratic, you’re showing them YOU SUPPORT:

    1. The Government recording all our phone calls, emails, and texts, forever, to use however they please in the future.

    2. The new NAFTAs Obama just signed into law, which will export more American jobs to South Korea, Panama, and Columbia.  More “free-trade” deals are planned, and the Republicans would be even worse.

    3. Allowing the military to arrest U.S. citizens without charges, and hold them indefinitely.

    4. Allowing the government to torture and execute Americans without any kind of due process.

    5. The Democrats’ gradual moves to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    6. Allowing corporations to sell genetically-modified frankenfoods in our supermarkets, UNLABELED so we can’t avoid them.

    Sounds like your “Democratic” vote is worse than wasted: It shows the Democratic Party that selling out citizens to corporate interests will continue to win them votes from the public.

    The Green Party is the progressive alternative. The Green Party doesn’t accept corporate money and represents the 99%.

    5% of the vote will get the Green Party matching Federal funds.

    Your Green vote sends a message to the corporate parties that selling out the 99% will cost them votes.

    And this message is sent even if the Green you vote for loses.

    VOTE GREEN!

  • Ert

    this news is one year old

  • Vladilyich

     I have a lot of friends in the former Soviet Union and other places that the American government would prefer I not contact.

  • Bungarra

    I guess the worth art of hacking will continue to provide solutions to disable back doors or once they are found, or looking at sending viruses into the system. 

    Other wise, using key code words which trigger so many false positives that the system fails from over load.

    It will be interesting if the EU etc kills the sales of such products in their area and blocks access from regions which do not via these systems.

  • http://www.mnot.net/ Mark Nottingham

    Can the article give more details and less hype, please?

    It starts talking about a patent, and then seems to imply that because it’s approved, Skype may start to use it (when in fact that wouldn’t block them at all).

    Then it’s about hack attempts; then jumps to an article about a trial in Egypt (how did that work, when AIUI LI requires modification of the client, and you mention webmail?), etc.

    Finally, it ends up with a scare about anonymous tracking — another current hot-button issue that has nothing to do with this.

    Less tin foil hat, more facts and analysis, please.

  • Richardbelloart

    Scary……what next ?…….

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  • Hieronymus

    I dropped Skype as soon as Microsoft bought it.

  • http://twitter.com/zeruch zeruch

     Maybe its really inspiring?

  • 2011kmg99

    The only vote thrown away is the one you don’t exercise. Just because your vote does not result in a win, doesn’t mean it was wasted.

  • Anonymous

    Even the fact that this is legal is absurd.

    Less trying to be political, more human rights please.

  • Shafiqissani

    welcome to the world with no boundaries … you will witness the death of internet within this decade … coz that according to the “law makers” is the solution to all this

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  • Anon

    As is usual with the uninformed hysteria regarding lawful interception you all seem to be forgetting the most important part: “lawful”means, in any moderately civilised country, approved by a judge based on reasonable information that shows you are probably committing an offence.

    The reality of most civilised legal systems is today, these days, it’s very difficult to obtain a conviction in the courts without absolutely overwhelming evidence – and the only way to achieve this is through the interception of communications.

    The alternative is to have no criminals convicted of they are committing. If you’d rather live in a place where that happens I can point out a couple of countries that might be more to your liking.

    While every system makes mistakes from time to time, as a general rule if there’s enough information to obtain interception warrants on you, you’re doing stuff you shouldn’t, and therefore any objections you have to the process are so tainted as to be irrelevant. Nobody wants errors to occur in a systems that deals with individuals privacy, but they will happen occasionally, despite the many checks and balances in place. If you still don’t feel comfortable with that you can go to one of the many anarchistic hovels you can easily find on a map where someone will murder you for your shoes. Please go now.

    Of course all this applies to counties with reasonable legal systems and there are some in which systemic abuses of privacy and human rights do take place, and therefore what is “criminal” is sometimes relative. While it’s easy for me to say ‘you can leave there too’, I realise that’s easier said than done. This, however, is a significantly different problem to objections about LAWFUL interception in counties with functioning legal system – in those places the resources required to intercept and monitor communications, not to mention the legal requirements, means that if you aren’t doing anything wrong it is highly unlikely you have any privacy infringement to worry about.

    Now go take your tinfoil hat off and go actually contribute something to the society you live in.

  • nuno baptista

    yes we all know what lawful means : lawful food additives, lawful corn syrup, lawful chemicals, etc, etc, etc….all well known AND with VERY serious & damaging effect on health but hey….who’s counting ! it’s ALL & ONLY for OUR benefit right ?………..
    so yes, trust me…. blindly !! & stop being a pest by thinking for yourself….

  • http://twitter.com/horsebones Leke

     Wow, that’s messed up. I heard something like that happened to the guy who does Cryptocat when he was coming from Canada to the US.

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