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[liberationtech] Skype interception - Project Chess

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at appelbaum.net
Thu Jun 20 07:08:33 PDT 2013


Hi,

I encourage all Skype users and security people to read this article
about Silicon Valley and the spying world:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/technology/silicon-valley-and-spy-agency-bound-by-strengthening-web.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

This bit about Skype is fantastic:

"Skype, the Internet-based calling service, began its own secret
program, Project Chess, to explore the legal and technical issues in
making Skype calls readily available to intelligence agencies and law
enforcement officials, according to people briefed on the program who
asked not to be named to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies.

"Project Chess, which has never been previously disclosed, was small,
limited to fewer than a dozen people inside Skype, and was developed as
the company had sometimes contentious talks with the government over
legal issues, said one of the people briefed on the project. The project
began about five years ago, before most of the company was sold by its
parent, eBay, to outside investors in 2009. Microsoft acquired Skype in
an $8.5 billion deal that was completed in October 2011.

"A Skype executive denied last year in a blog post that recent changes
in the way Skype operated were made at the behest of Microsoft to make
snooping easier for law enforcement. It appears, however, that Skype
figured out how to cooperate with the intelligence community before
Microsoft took over the company, according to documents leaked by Edward
J. Snowden, a former contractor for the N.S.A. One of the documents
about the Prism program made public by Mr. Snowden says Skype joined
Prism on Feb. 6, 2011.

"Microsoft executives are no longer willing to affirm statements, made
by Skype several years ago, that Skype calls could not be wiretapped.
Frank X. Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman, declined to comment.

I suspect that people will say "oh, activists don't need to worry about
the FBI or the NSA" - just remember - other intel agencies have data
sharing programs with the NSA. So a Dutch activist or a Moroccan
journalist are likely both just as screwed as an American activist using
Skype.

To the Skype promoters, apologists and deniers - I encourage you to
start using, and improving Jitsi - it needs a lot of love but it at
least has a chance of being secure, whereas Skype is beyond repair.

All the best,
Jacob



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