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Skype security concerns

Skype should open its platform to evaluation by trusted, credible industry experts

The encryption of Skype VoIP phone calls might not be as secure as you think.

It’s possible the company keeps keys so law enforcement authorities can decrypt encrypted VoIP phone calls, a report says, but Skype won’t say for sure one way or the other. (Compare IP PBXs .) According to an online report, Austrian officials with legal authority to tap VoIP phone communications have no problem listening in on Skype calls, which are encrypted as a standard part of Skype service.

A Skype spokesman wouldn’t say whether Skype keeps keys to decrypt calls. “Sorry, Skype does not comment on media speculation,” says Skype vice president Chiam Haas.

It’s virtually impossible to figure out for sure from independent research whether Skype keeps encryption keys or not, says David Endler, chairman of Voice Over IP Security Alliance and senior director of security research at Tipping Point.

“No one has shown it publicly,” he says. “Skype is a closed software package, essentially a black box.”

The company has on rare occasions allowed outside researchers to examine and verify the security of its encryption, but not whether the keys that can crack the encryption can be retrieved, he says.

To allay fears that the calls might not be secure from law enforcement, Skype should open its platform to evaluation by trusted, credible industry experts, he says.

Endler says it’s equally difficult to know whether commercial VoIP vendors leave open the possibility of turning encryption keys over to law enforcement.