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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Pandora & Filter – Personal radio stations on Internet and via i-Tunes

Internet radio stations are commonly used globally today, but are you aware that you can set-up your own personal music radio station?

Pandora provides you the opportunity to set up personalised music radio stations, you select specific music and they match it with others to ensure you have a station streaming music to your preference.

Even better, for those of us in developing countries without broadband, use a similar approach to rediscover your ever-expanding music collection. The Filter enables you to do the same for your own i-Tunes collection, giving you the chance to have playlists made on the fly after you have selected a few tracks!

Sadly for a few of us this is only available for windows i-Tunes, but worry yee not, a Mac version is in beta form being used by the team at The Filter!

Personally I look forward to Filter having more functionality, so I am able to set-up a personal radio station relaying information my favourite podcasts (see future post), lectures from the University of Berkley, and technology updates from dl.tv, Scobleizer, and especially theTWit Netcast Network coordinated by Leo Laporte.

Net Neutrality … storm in a teacup… or fight for global liberty

Is paranioa over “big Communications” or telco’s controlling the internet overdone?

Current consumers, both business and users pay for connectivity and services. Online service providers from Google to Rocketboom all pay their way. As for payment for premium service, such as faster delivery, well this has been the case for a long time with businesses being prepared to pay a premium for security and speed, whether through VPN’s or paying specialist online service providers.

Of course a two tier (or more) internet in the mass market where those who can pay get privileged treatment is fundamentally flawed. The arguments are well presented on Save the Internet. However this US and western centric view misses the global impact.

A far bigger issue is what impact will this have on less developed countries. Internet Cafes have sprung up all over Kabul in Afghanistan over the last 3 years what impact will a two, three or even four tier system have on Afghans access to the world outside? The World Bank estimates that around 10% of people in developing countries have access to the internet, one would suspect a large percentage of these to be on dial-up. In Kabul we had a expensive Wimax connection to our home, I hate to think how slow or unreliable the service would have been if other tiers of service had priority. Surely we would not want to condemn developing countries bottom rung in yet another tiered system of access to world markets?

One has to remember that AT&T, Verizon, Comcast to name just a few Telco’s in the US, like telco’s globally are struggling to find a replacement for loss of highly lucrative paying voice traffic to consumer friendly VOIP providers like Skype. In the US all telco’s are planning massive investments in convergent networks over which they can offer telephony, mobile, broadband and TV to the home. Interestingly in the UK which has a non-cable culture BT has taken a cheaper route. To replace the ‘lost’ telephony revenues, and cover the costs of the convergent networks, telco’s are scrabbling to increase revenues from broadband connectivity or internet services…

– – – but wait a minute! – – –

Haven’t they got it the wrong way around? Cable companies pay the content providers … so doesn’t it logically flow that all those innovative online providers should be paid by telco’s for providing the value-added products that drive demand for broadband that home owners do, after all, have to pay for?

Not only should the principal of net neutrality be upheld, US government and others should conciously not intervene with laws. The internet is genuinely changing the world with the access it provides to information, ideas and through sparking creativity, no ethnic group has an edge in “geekiness” lets keep it that way… maintain the net as a global platform for innovation!