EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

05.16.13

Microsoft Skype Messaging Surveillance Not the Main Issue, Audio Recording (Bugging) and Computer Hijacking Are

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 12:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nokia phone

Summary: Debates about the dangers of Skype focus on one of the least dangerous aspects of Skype

THE PROBLEM with Skype is not quite what The H focuses on. Microsoft claims to be scanning people’s conversations to mitigate the threat of phishing scams and such, but this doesn’t quite compute unless they only ever test for redirections in HEAD. To say that Skype is tracking people’s conversations would not be shocking because even years ago (before Skype was taken up by Microsoft and the NSA) China was given access to text conversations for censorship purposes (similar to security purposes in the practical sense). This is well documented in news sites, especially in Western news sites that like to berate China over practices that the West too harbours, but always under plausible denial clauses.

For those who have not seen the widely-syndicated and discussed report from Heise (or The H), in English the summary says: “A Microsoft server accesses URLs sent in Skype chat messages, even if they are HTTPS URLs and contain account information. A reader of Heise publications notified Heise Security (link to German website, Google translation). They replicated the observation by sending links via Skype, including one to a private file storage account, and found that these URLs are shortly after accessed from a Microsoft IP address. When confronted, Microsoft claimed that this is part of an effort to detect and filter spam and phishing URLs.”

“The H and heise Security believe that, having consented to Microsoft using all data transmitted over the service pretty much however it likes, all Skype users should assume that this will actually happen and that the company is not going to reveal what exactly it gets up to with this data.”
      –The H
As the article in The H puts it: “Anyone who uses Skype has consented to the company reading everything they write. The H’s associates in Germany at heise Security have now discovered that the Microsoft subsidiary does in fact make use of this privilege in practice. Shortly after sending HTTPS URLs over the instant messaging service, those URLs receive an unannounced visit from Microsoft HQ in Redmond.

“A reader informed heise Security that he had observed some unusual network traffic following a Skype instant messaging conversation. The server indicated a potential replay attack. It turned out that an IP address which traced back to Microsoft had accessed the HTTPS URLs previously transmitted over Skype. Heise Security then reproduced the events by sending two test HTTPS URLs, one containing login information and one pointing to a private cloud-based file-sharing service.”

Microsoft’s excuses didn’t pass muster (the security excuse for surveillance, where all they can really test for is a redirection). “In summary,” says the author, “The H and heise Security believe that, having consented to Microsoft using all data transmitted over the service pretty much however it likes, all Skype users should assume that this will actually happen and that the company is not going to reveal what exactly it gets up to with this data.”

And from the comments we learn it’s worse than The H originally put it: “We tested it at mooncascade.com. I can confirm there is correlation between URL-s in Skype chats and web server access logs with traces from Redmond. There are both https and http accesses.”

Another commenter says:

So much about the “AES encryption” Skype promisses:

> All Skype-to-Skype voice, video, and instant message conversations
> are encrypted. This protects you from potential eavesdropping by
> malicious users.
>
> (https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA31/does-skype-use-encryption)

Aparently, this falls into the same category as “McDonalds food is
healty and tastes good”.

This whole debate, unfortunately, misses a key point; not just text conversations are being tracked but voice ones (relayed through US infrastructure) — the bread and butter of Skype — are also being tracked and Skype as a binary ensures not only that Windows is hijackable, as we showed before, but that all platforms are rendered hijackable when Skype is running in the background (Skype has no intention of addressing these issues). The debate should be altered to take account of these much greater threats. By the way, on Windows it doesn’t even take Skype to hijack a computer; Microsoft has just admitted that exploits in the wild exist that help hijack Windows through a built-in program and there is also software that lets people’s Facebook accounts get hijacked through Windows, including on Vista 8 (the operating system which hardly sells, leading Microsoft to lies and inexcusable disinformation).

“A much rarer event, however, is one of Redmond’s own unloading publicly on the faults of not only Windows, but Microsoft’s company culture.”
      –Gizmodo
The Free Software Foundation has long been campaigning against Skype, even before Microsoft took over. GNU/Linux with SKype binaries is just about as compromisable as other platforms. The weakest link counts. It is worth noting that even a Windows developer admits that Windows is inferior to Linux, stirring up further debate. As Gizmodo put it: “Right now, somewhere on the internet, there is a flame war occurring between devotees of Linux and Windows. It’s just the nature of passionate software evangelism. A much rarer event, however, is one of Redmond’s own unloading publicly on the faults of not only Windows, but Microsoft’s company culture.”

At Microsoft, backdoors are not a bug; sometimes they are a feature. Since nobody among the users can inspect the code or thoroughly interpret the binaries, it’s hard to remove the backdoors, let alone prove their existence.

“You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.”Mahatma Gandhi

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 20/9/2014: GNOME 3.13.92, Android L

    Links for the day



  2. Scanning Patent Troll Implodes; Is the Podcasting Patent Troll Next?

    MPHJ loses and Personal Audio LLC perhaps wins for the last time since software patents are quickly losing legitimacy in the United States



  3. If CAFC is Not Above the Law, Then it Should be Shut Down Now

    A long series of abuses in CAFC may as well suggest that this court has become broken beyond repair



  4. The Latest From Microsoft Patent Trolls and Patent Partners

    Microsoft-linked and Linux-hostile trolls continue their relentless attacks (albeit with little or no success) while patents as a weapon lose their teeth owing to a Supreme Court ruling



  5. Microsoft Proves That Its Massive Layoffs Are Not About Nokia

    Microsoft is laying off a lot of employees who have nothing at all to do with Nokia



  6. Links 19/9/2014: Another Red Hat Acquisition, Netflix Dumps Microsoft Silverlight and Brings DRM to WWW

    Links for the day



  7. Links 18/9/2014: Windows Copying GNU/Linux, Germany Moves to Security

    Links for the day



  8. Web Site 'Patent Progress' Now Officially 'Powered by CCIA' (FRAND Proponent, Microsoft Front)

    After talking a job at CCIA, "Patent Progress" and its chief author should be treated as dubious on real patent progress



  9. Articles About the Death of Software Patents in the United States

    Recent coverage of software patents and their demise in their country of origin, where even proponents of software patents are giving up



  10. The Death of Software Patents is Already Killing Some Major Patent Trolls

    VirnetX seems to be the latest victim of the demise of software patents in the United States



  11. More Microsoft Layoffs

    More Microsoft layoffs go ahead as the company is unable to compete



  12. ODF on the Rise

    Milestones for OpenDocument Format (ODF) and the launch of FixMyDocuments



  13. Links 17/9/2014: CoreOS, ChromeOS, and systemd

    Links for the day



  14. Italy is Cracking Down on Microsoft's Monopoly Abuse While Gradually Moving to GNU/Linux

    Italy is not only moving to Free/Open Source software but also to GNU/Linux while at the same time barring Microsoft from forcibly tying Windows to new PCs



  15. OpenSUSE's 'Assurances' Are Classic MBA School Hogwash

    OpenSUSE is not part of any commitment, except for SUSE's; the impact of the Novell/SUSE acquisition casts uncertainty on the project's future



  16. Links 16/9/2014: Firefox OS Smartphones in Bangladesh, “Treasure Map” of the Internet

    Links for the day



  17. The United Kingdom Should Dump Microsoft For the Sake of National Security

    The UK has issues of Microsoft dependency and Windows viruses; its migration to Free software and GNU/Linux is not fast enough to guard its autonomy in the age of digital imperialism



  18. CBS Hires Even More Microsoft Staff to Cover Microsoft Matters

    CBS continues to be infested with Microsoft staff past and present (this time Dave Johnson) and the bias in output is quite revealing



  19. Microsoft Has Just Killed Minecraft for GNU/Linux and the Possibility of Free/Open Source Releases

    Persson sells out to Microsoft and lets the abusive monopolist destroy the popular cross-platform game that a community has been built around



  20. Another Reason to Boycott Intel UEFI

    More anti-competitive aspects are revealed inside UEFI, which helps merginalise GNU/Linux



  21. Quick Mention: Novell and SUSE Passed to Microsoft's 'Partner of the Year', Microsoft Focus

    Novell is changing hands again, and falling into the hands of even more Microsoft-friendly actors



  22. Links 16/9/2014: Linux 3.17 RC5, KDE Frameworks 5.2.0

    Links for the day



  23. Željko Topić, Benoît Battistelli, and the European Patent Office (EPO): Part II

    Part II of our look into the EPO appointment of Željko Topić and other matters showing the dubious integrity of the EPO



  24. Links 14/9/2014: Android-based Watches Earn Optimism

    Links for the day



  25. Links 14/9/2014: Eucalyptus Devoured

    Links for the day



  26. Links 11/9/2014: Linux Toilet Project, Linux-Based Wheelchair Project

    Links for the day



  27. Links 10/9/2014: Brian Stevens in Google, Ubuntu 14.10 Expectations

    Links for the day



  28. Links 9/9/2014: Hating/Loving Linux, Android Aplenty

    Links for the day



  29. Links 8/9/2014: Linux 3.17 RC 4, Switzerland Welcoming Snowden

    Links for the day



  30. Suspicion of High-Level Corruption at the European Patent Office (EPO): Part I

    The European Patent Office (EPO) Vice-President has a background of corruption and his appointment to the EPO too is believed to be reliant on systemic corruption


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts