Microsoft plans to buy online phone service Skype for US$8.5 billion, but what are the security implications?
For those not familiar with Skype, it's an interesting sort of beast. Loosely speaking, it's an internet telephone company without much of a telephone company. Much of its operation is peer-to-peer, so that much of its bandwidth and infrastructure - not unreasonably - is provided directly by the users of the service.
One uncertainty - indeed, to some, it's a controversy - about Skype's proprietary software is whether it includes any sort of 'lawful interception' system.
Most countries require landline and mobile phone operators to provide a vehicle by which duly-authorised law enforcement agents can intercept calls on their networks.
Indeed, phone carriers spend a lot of money maintaining lawful interception systems, something which is as useful to law enforcement as it is worrying to privacy.
But since most Skype calls are peer-to-peer, and encrypted end-to-end, Skype isn't a traditional phone carrier.
Either it doesn't have a lawful interception capability or it must contain some sort of network-independent backdoor which could be considered a serious security risk.
So what's likely to happen from a software and a security point of view? Here are my guesses:
Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia
Issue: 315 | May 2013
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