Paranoia – another friend on Skype?

Since you are all seasoned travellers there is no need to introduce you to Skype, probably it is the friendliest VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) service available.

No doubt you, like me, really enjoy being able to phone friends and family all over the world as I please. The Web cam takes it to a whole new level and my kids just love to chat, scream and show their favourite toys to cousins, uncles and grandparents.

However have you ever considered security! Yes, sadly Skype is just about as secure as the internet, fortunately we are not all using MS Windows, market dominant software typically attracts security breaches… Oh dear… it looks as if Skype is not only taking the market by storm but is likely to for a while, especially in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Middle East. The BBC Digital Planet podcast 16th Oct 06 has more info.

Telephone calls are most prone to hacking when they can be interrupted. For example if you call a bank the line is on hold while you wait for call centre staff to become available, this is when the call/ line can be interrupted (pretending they are the bank call centre) and interjects a request for verification of who you are, asks for your password, and card number, codes …. of course after they have such details they can directly manipulate your banking details. These are known as “man-in-the-middle” attacks, since the hacker has to interject a call and manage the telephone communication to both parties. Of course there are plenty of counter-opinions such as Ravings of a Strange Mind.

Is this common … far from it, indeed it doesn’t appear there have been any widely discussed examples … yet!

Of course enterprise providers of VOIP equipment (like CISCO or Nortel), VOIP solution providers to business (Vonage), and hosted VOIP service providers will all be putting in place appropriate security mechanisms. It is not so easy for Skype since they do not control the equipment in your home, the last mile or the server connecting to your computer.

Paranoia is not a healthy state of mind, however next time you are on Skype to the bank… there is a skip in the music… the line tone changes… simply gives some strange interference… you might want to fall back on good old paranoia and hang up!


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