by Lewis Page
12 February 2009
Counter Terror Expo News of a
possible viable business model for
P2P VoIP network Skype emerged
today, at the Counter Terror Expo in London.
source disclosed that America's super-secret National Security
Agency (NSA) is offering "billions" to any firm which can
offer reliable eavesdropping on Skype IM and voice traffic.
The spybiz exec, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed that
Skype continues to be
a major problem for government listening
agencies, spooks and police. This was already thought
to be the case, following requests from German authorities for
special intercept/bugging powers to help them deal with Skype-loving
GCHQ has also stated that it has
severe problems intercepting VoIP and internet communication in
Skype in particular is a serious problem for spooks and cops. Being
P2P (Peer-to-peer), the
network can't be accessed by the company providing it and the
authorities can't gain access by that route. The company won't
disclose details of its encryption, either, and isn't required to as
it is Europe based.
This lack of openness prompts many
security pros to rubbish Skype on "security through obscurity"
grounds: but nonetheless it remains a popular choice with those who
think they might find themselves under surveillance. Rumor suggests
that America's NSA may be able to break Skype encryption -
assuming they have access to a given call or message - but nobody
The NSA may be able to do that: but it seems that if so, this uses
up too much of the agency's resources at present.
"They are saying to the industry,
you get us into Skype and we will make you a very rich company,"
said the industry source, adding that the obscure encryption
used by the P2Pware is believed to change frequently
as part of software updates.
The spyware kingpin suggested that Skype
is deliberately seeking to frustrate national listening agencies,
which seems an odd thing to do - Skype has difficulties enough
getting revenues out of its vast user base at any time, and a paid
secure-voice system for subversives doesn't seem like a
But corporate parent eBay, having had to write down $1.4bn
already following its $2.6bn purchase of Skype back in the
bubble-2.0 days of 2005, might see an opportunity here. A billion or
two from the NSA for a backdoor into Skype might make the
acquisition seem like a sensible idea.
We asked the NSA for comment, particularly on the idea of simply
buying a way into
Skype, but hadn't yet received a
response as of publication.
Taliban Using Skype Phones to Dodge MI6
by Glen Owen
13 September 2008
Taliban fighters targeting British
troops in Afghanistan are using the latest ‘internet phones’ to
evade detection by MI6, security sources said last night.
Skype, a popular piece of consumer
software that allows free calls to be made over the web, has been
adopted by insurgents to communicate with cells strung out across
Unlike traditional mobile calls, which can be monitored by RAF
Nimrod spy planes, Skype calls – the commercial application of a
technology called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
– are heavily encrypted.
Voice calls are broken into millions of pieces of data before being
sent down the line and reassembled by the other caller’s computer.
The British and American governments are investing considerable
resources to crack the codes, and in the UK the Government is
introducing legislation to force internet service providers to log
all web activity by subscribers, which could then be turned over to
the security services on demand.
The disclosure comes as the 8,000 British troops in Afghanistan are
facing attacks almost daily from an increasingly well co-ordinated
‘The trouble with this technology is
that it is easily available but devilishly hard to crack,’ the
source said. ‘The technology can now be accessed on mobile
internet devices and the country’s mobile phone network is
Skype was created in 2003 and three
years ago was bought by eBay for £1.4billion. It has 300million
accounts and at any one time, more than 12million people are using
Sir David Pepper, the head of
GCHQ, the British Government’s
top-secret listening post, has told MPs that internet calls are
‘seriously undermining’ his organization's ability to intercept
Skype said last night it did not want to comment.