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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