Interview: How secure is Skype?

In many countries, journalists are confronted with security problems. We are starting a series of posts devoted to digital security. We will cover such issues as messaging services, IP address and how you can change it, how you can make yourself anonymous on the web and much more. For this post, we have interviewed Fabian von Keudell, technology & security editor at the renowned German technology magazine CHIP about how secure Skype is and which alternatives are out there.

How secure is Skype? Is there a possibility that audio and video talks as well as chat messages can be saved and later used by Skype itself or intercepted by third parties?

Fabian von Keudell, CHIP reporter

Fabian von Keudell, CHIP reporter

In 2011 Microsoft, the owner of Skype, patented a technology that allows the company to intercept secure calls over the Skype network. Since then security specialist fear that Microsoft is secretly implementing such technology in the Skype source code. Since no one has access to the original source code, it is quite difficult to say whether a Skype call is interceptable  or not. For now, most experts believe, that governments have already access to Skype calls.

Are users still secure when they make calls from Skype to normal phone numbers?

All calls are made through so called Skype supernodes. Therefore it is possible to record even these Skype-to-landline calls.

What about Google Talk and FaceTime?

Every VoIP software that is proprietary has the same security problem: The user never knows what exactly is written in the source code. So there is always a risk of a backdoor in the program which allows the company or governments to access to your data.

Which alternative messaging service would you recommend to use? e,.g, Jitsi, off-the-record-encryption services such as PsiMiranda IM and Adium?

Jitsi and other open source programs are always a better solution when it comes to secure data and voice transmissions. Be sure to download the Software from a reliable source.

Is it enough to use a secure messaging service in order to protect yourself against third parties?

There is always a chance that you have unknowingly installed a trojan on your PC. Such virus could record everything, even secure and encrypted transmissions. So be sure to have all necessary Windows updates and a state-of-the-art virus protection installed on your PC.

What should journalists do to make sure their calls and messages are protected against any intervention and interception?

There is no 100 procent protection against call interceptions, especially when someone with a lot of manpower and money is interested in your calls and data. But these cases are very rare. For everyone else, open-source software like Jitsi is the way to go. You should try other tools as well. For example, the TOR browser lets you hide your IP address, that is, where you are, but your activity can still be intercepted. The tool TrueCrypt lets you encrypt your data. By using a combination of tools journalists can ensure better security.

Originally published by: DW Akademie 

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