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[liberationtech] [cryptopolitics] [cryptography] skype backdoor confirmation

Eugen Leitl eugen at
Tue Jun 11 10:31:59 PDT 2013

----- Forwarded message from Adam Back <adam at> -----

Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2013 19:28:44 +0200
From: Adam Back <adam at>
To: Ethan Heilman <eth3rs at>
Cc: Crypto discussion list <cryptography at>, New Cpunks List <cryptopolitics at>
Subject: Re: [cryptopolitics] [cryptography] skype backdoor confirmation
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)
Reply-To: New Cpunks List <cryptopolitics at>

(I set the reply to to the cryptopolitics/new cypherpunk list).

It seems skype via PRISM/NSA api or intermediate server complying with a
FISA order they probably couldnt talk about if they wanted to, is recording
pretty much everything in skype channels, maybe narrowed only by
bandwidth. It doesnt seem that US citizens are particularly safe
either, though not
being from the US I'm even less than "51%" assured anyway.  Great and 100%
full-on analysis for the rest of the world.

In fact it seems what is really going on is they record everything to
preserve ability for retro-active analysis, US & non-US.  According to EFF
in NSA terminology data isnt "collected" until its pulled from the NSA data
farm and analysed in some way.  Obvioulsy to other readers of the English
language, collected is when it hits the disk in NSA's Utah exabyte disk
farm.  So the "51%" assurance I would think is actually that they havent yet
analysed your data (for US users), not that they didnt record it.

Curiously many journalists and commentators seem to be suffering from
repeated extremely naive failure to parse PR-speak.  They need to read more
from Binney and re-listen to Snowden.  You cant expect to reverse engineer
the architecture of something from a PR expert who is intentionally lying to
you.  (Lying is defined as an intent to mislead, and they lied to everyone
including the authors of the Patriot act, congress, the oversight
committees, etc.  Clapper calls it (actual TV interview quote) "least
untruthful manner" ie he didnt say anything directly untrue during his
previous successful attempts to mislead congress in congressional hearings.)

Anyway a small tidbit related to the pre-prism discussion of skype suspected
backdooring (and probably thats pretty much conclusive given the PRISM

This article says skype had handed over web browsing information:

"But more than 7,000 British requests resulted in data being shared,
including names, addresses and browsing history showing a list of websites
visited by a Microsoft customer"

So given the context being skype, I am thinking that "we're just checking
for malware" URL uploading is actually recorded and subject to supoena for
normal law enforcement, and mass storage/retro-active analysis by law
enforcement.  Probabl along with the rest of the IM stream.

Back to the PRISM saga, I think the NSA and echelon partners have
overstepped the mark massively and built a MONSTROSITY that may eventually
bring down democracy.  Its probably more fragile than people think; some
european democracies are relatively young, and civil unrest and dangerous
political voices seem to gain in times of extreme economic and political
stress as in greece (golden dawn neo-nazis).

No doubt the prime PRISM motivations were profit (defense contractors with
big lobbing influence in the post 9-11 world) plus a bit of national
security, chasing the odd bad guy.  But for proportionality in cost (the
number of people killed by terrorists is a tiny tiny risk for western
countries), and erosion of civil liberties (4th amendment to americans) this
is an outrage.  Many people died historically fighting to rid the world of
such facist governments.  We should not glibly build the means of
democracies downfall.  The most dangerous aspect is the secerecy - not only
do they want to collect the biggest dossier on everyone ever, they want to
do it in secret, with secret courts, secret legal interpretations, and gag
orders on those in industry forced to participate.  Secret laws are not
hallmarks of a democratic process.


On Thu, Jun 06, 2013 at 06:23:16PM -0400, Ethan Heilman wrote:
>   From the new Washington Post Article
>     According to a separate Users Guide for PRISM Skype Collection, that
>     service can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a
>     conventional telephone and for any combination of audio, video,
>     chat, and file transfers when Skype users connect by computer alone.
>     Googles offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive
>     files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.
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Eugen* Leitl <a href="">leitl</a>
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