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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Skype, big brother?

Skype has long provided assistance to governments
The Washington Post reported yesterday that:
Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police.
The changes, which give the authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers, have drawn quiet applause in law enforcement circles but hostility from many activists and analysts.
To back up its claim, the post cites interviews with "industry and government officials familiar with the changes" who "poke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly." Ugh.
However, a quick Google search for "Skype law enforcement handbook" quickly turns up an official looking document on the whistleblower website cryptome.org, dated October 2007, which makes it clear that Skype has long been providing the assistance that the Post claims is new.
From Skype's 2007 law enforcement handbook:

In response to a subpoena or other court order, Skype will provide:

• Registration information provided at time of account registration • E-mail address • IP address at the time of registration • Financial transactions conducted with Skype in the past year, although details of the credit cards used are stored only by the billing provider used (for instance, Bibit, RBS or PayPal) • Destination telephone numbers for any calls placed to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) • All service and account information, including any billing address(es) provided, IP address (at each transaction), and complete transactional information
While Skype's law enforcement handbook suggests that the company does not have access to IP address session logs, high-profile criminal case from 2006 suggests that the company does.
Kobi Alexander, the founder of Comverse, was nabbed in Negombo, Sri Lanka yesterday by a private investigator.
He is wanted by the US government in connection with financial fraud charges.
He is accused of profiting from some very shady stock-option deals, to the detriment of Comverse shareholders.
Once the deals became public and he was indicted, he resigned as CEO and fled the US.
Alexander was traced to the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo after he placed a one-minute call using Skype.
That was enough to alert authorities to his presence and hunt him down.
This makes sense.
Skype clients connect to Skype's central servers (so that users can make calls to non Skype users, and learn which of their friends are online and offline), and so the servers naturally learn the IP address that the user is connecting from. This is not surprising.

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