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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls (Read 21405 times)
Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Sep 23rd, 2004 at 11:25am
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UPDATE (18 December 2014): I no longer recommend using Skype.

Skype is a free program that allows you to have secure voice conversations through your computer. It uses strong encryption and the sound quality is quite good. Encrypted text chat and file transfers are also an option. The interface is similar to that of AOL Messenger in that it allows you to create a list of contacts who are on-line. See:

http://www.skype.com

My Skype user ID is GeorgeMaschke.
« Last Edit: Dec 18th, 2014 at 9:42am by George W. Maschke »  

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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #1 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 6:42am
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id bet that one of the good folks at skype...no wait, more than one, have the capability to decrypt your calls, oh since they encrypted it and all.  you're probably better off with a friends' cell phone
  
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #2 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 7:13am
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Could you explain further the reason(s) for your belief that Skype Technologies can decrypt calls made using Skype? Is there some informed basis for your belief?

Since the discovery of any "backdoor" in Skype's implementation of 256-bit AES would be disastrous to Skype Technologies' goodwill (and ultimately its bottom line), it is hard to understand what would motivate the company to include such.

Note also that Skype communications are end-to-end encrypted by the users' computers, not by Skype Technologies'. The encrypted data packets that make up the communications are transmitted across a peer-to-peer network comprising hundreds of thousands of other Skype users. My understanding is that not all packets between any two parties necessarily travel the same route. And to the best of my knowledge, Skype Technologies has no capability of assembling the packets of any communication to which it is not a party.
  

George W. Maschke
Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp to text or call.)
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #3 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 7:25am
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If they offer the encryption, regardless of whether it is done on your computer or theirs, shouldn't someone that has access to the source code be able to decrypt it?  And if they were to be paid by anyone who is curious, wouldnt they also have access?  Give me the source code for the encryption and software, and maybe I could decrypt your phone calls.  Someone pays for their research... Also,  if music downloaders can be tracked down and persecuted by the RIAA on peer-to-peer networks, who's to say that hacks in the government cant decrypt your 256 bit encryption internet calls.  Why would they want to decrypt your calls? Well...why would you want to encrypt them? Encrypted text or maybe a letter might be more secure than that.
  
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #4 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 7:50am
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Strong encryption does not depend on the alogrithm used being secret. If it were true that simply having the source code to encryption software necessarily enables one to decrypt any data encrypted with it, then why has no one cracked PGP, the source code for which has been public for more than a decade now?

The specifications for the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), also known as Rijndael, is also public. Of course, it is possible that Skype's implementation of AES has some weakness that could be exploited by a would-be eavesdropper. But your suggestion that simply having Skype's source code would enable one to decrypt a Skype call is clearly not necessarily true.

The fact that music downloaders using peer-to-peer networks have been tracked down similarly does not entail that Skype conversations can be decrypted by third parties. In peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing arrangements, users need to post to the P2P network a list of the files that they are making available for download. It is presumably this information that allows law enforcement to pursue those who unlawfully make copyrighted material available. For this purpose, I do not believe that it is necessary for law enforcement to assemble all the packets of a file transfer between third parties (something that would be necessary to intercept a complete Skype communication).
  

George W. Maschke
Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp to text or call.)
E-mail/iMessage/FaceTime: antipolygraph.org@protonmail.com
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #5 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 8:10am
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My point is that if someone really wanted to decrypt those calls, they could...there is always a way no matter how you scatter the bits around sattelites and cables.  If there is someone out there paranoid enough to encrypt their phonecalls (especially your average citizen) then there is also a crook or person of interest willing to make the time to decrypt and interpret it.  Now whether big brother is going to take the time to do it is another question.
  
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #6 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 8:13am
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note: im just weary of anyone advertising free secure internet phone calls, despite the medium it encased in..and although you are not "advertising it" you advocate it,  and how would i really know that you don't have the capability to do what i mentioned?
  
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #7 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 8:22am
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compscigeek,

You write in part:

Quote:
My point is that if someone really wanted to decrypt those calls, they could...there is always a way no matter how you scatter the bits around sattelites and cables.


But you have provided no evidence that actually supports this argument.

Quote:
how would i really know that you don't have the capability to do what i mentioned?


You cannot know this for sure, but again, you have offered no evidence that I (or anyone else) can do so.

Please forgive me for concluding, based on the arguments that you have provided, that your initial claim that "one of the good folks at skype...no wait, more than one, have the capability to decrypt your calls" is nothing more than idle, uninformed speculation on your part.
  

George W. Maschke
Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp to text or call.)
E-mail/iMessage/FaceTime: antipolygraph.org@protonmail.com
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Threema: A4PYDD5S
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #8 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 8:40am
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yes the first thing i said was uninformed speculation, i don't know a thing about that company, nor do i claim to.  i can not provide proof that this can be done other than the common computer knowledge that anything done by a computer can be undone by a computer..anything..if there is a side that is meant to decrypt this, than there is someone other than the person meant to receive it who can find out what you are saying as well...i don't claim to do it...and i don't care to try...the only experience i have with this area is writing programs that encrypt/decrypt information...and i have a limited understanding of how packets are transferred and composed within different protocols....in all reality im this free internet phone is probably safe, but im always the skeptic, and what reason would you have to defend them so quickly and adamently anyway?
  
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #9 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 8:58am
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Quote:
i can not provide proof that this can be done other than the common computer knowledge that anything done by a computer can be undone by a computer..anything..if there is a side that is meant to decrypt this, than there is someone other than the person meant to receive it who can find out what you are saying as well...


Perhaps in theory, but not necessarily in practice. A brute force attack to find the key to decrypt a single message encrypted with 256-bit AES would take all the computers ever built billions of years.

My purpose was not so much to defend Skype Technologies (a privately-held company in which I have no material interest), but rather to question the basis of your criticism, which I believe was completely unfounded.
  

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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #10 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 9:13am
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in theory there would be a way in which you could decrypt this as fast as the target, whether it takes additional installation of software on the target's computer or not...which was physically placed there..coupled with the software or magically positioned...etc.  it would take you a billion years to decrypt it if you were using the nazi's enigma machine and trying to stumble on the key.  the key would be stealing the key, or having access to the key maker....haha ok ok, this is starting to sound like something familiar
  
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #11 - Nov 2nd, 2004 at 9:31am
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Certainly, Skype communications might be compromised by the surreptitious installation of software or a physical eavesdropping device in (or near) a target's computer. But such a scheme requires a potentially risky and expensive covert operation.

If your argument is now simply that nothing is absolutely secure, then all you are doing is stating a truism that is of little practical value to persons looking for meaningful ways of protecting their privacy.
« Last Edit: Nov 2nd, 2004 at 9:50am by George W. Maschke »  

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Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp to text or call.)
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Threema: A4PYDD5S
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #12 - Nov 3rd, 2004 at 12:38am
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compscigeek wrote on Nov 2nd, 2004 at 8:40am:
i can not provide proof that this can be done other than the common computer knowledge that anything done by a computer can be undone by a computer..anything..if there is a side that is meant to decrypt this, than there is someone other than the person meant to receive it who can find out what you are saying as well...i don't claim to do it...and i don't care to try...the only experience i have with this area is writing programs that encrypt/decrypt information...


compscigeek,

While this may sound reasonable, it is really quite hard. So much so that even the simple problem of finding any two 17 byte sequences that produce identical 16 byte MD5 digests has never been solved and it can be easily shown there are zillions of them.

AES and >1500 bit RSA for key exchange is believed to be far harder than this.

Any program may have a backdoor or, even more likely, bugs and that is where the risks are. To learn more about cryptography, a free book on the web "Handbook of Applied Cryptography" will provide you plenty of info and references.

You say you have written programs encrypting/decrypting packets. Was this a school or work project? What algorithms did you use?

-Marty
  

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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #13 - Nov 3rd, 2004 at 9:07pm
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With project Echelon and all the terror alerts and such I'd be hesitant to use any third party encryption techniques if I were really paranoid that someone (including the U.S. Government) was listening. It's been suggested that NSA harvests nearly 95% of all internet traffic and filters it through complex algorithms that trigger bells and whistles should certain "keywords/phrases" pop up. I'd guess encrypted voice would be more likely to gather attention than not. And if you think they can't crack your little vendor provided encryption, with the bilions of tax dollars we pump into those gargantuan databases and complex computer systems of theirs, I'd bet you're sadly mistaken.

My two cents is that there's no reason to bother with encryption unless you're doing it so that Joe Blo l337 hacker extrordinaire can't hear you discuss which websites you download your porn from, or whatever.

Certainly don't expect that big brother isn't listening...the devil's greatest trick is deceiving you into believing he doesn't exist. Big brother's greatest trick is convincing you that he's not listening...
  
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Re: Skype - Free Secure Internet Phone Calls
Reply #14 - Nov 4th, 2004 at 3:44am
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According to www.skype.com they have "served" over 2 billion minutes of conversation.

If you believe the info at the bottom of this page:
http://www.skype.com/help/faq/#1billion
Quote:
What is the "minutes served" counter on skype.com front page?
The counter indicates that in its first year of operation, Skype has served more than 1 billion minutes of free Skype-to-Skype calls to its users. The counter is frequently updated based on the actual current number of minutes.

How do you know how many minutes Skype users have called to each other if all calls are encrypted?

Skype has built-in facilities to automatically gather anonymous usage statistics from its network and users, including the number of minutes spent on calls. We cannot track those minutes back to individual users and calls - your Skype calls are and continue to be secure.


Then I think the liklihood of "Big Brother" listening in is pretty low.  Think about it.  2 billion mintes of encrypted voice calls, all routed throuh multiple points on the Internet.  No magic vacuum machine computer can suck down all that data then decrypt it, then convert it, despite what Hollywood and Tom Clancy make you think.

I doubt "Big Brother" cares to listen in to your calls in the first place.  But I wouldn't have any reservations about using Skype.  It is no more dangerous than any other program you didn't personally write.

Believing that Big Brother has these capabilities is the same belief system that makes the polygraph successful.  Big Brother's use of the polygraph is the system that keeps smart engineers that can actually build good surveillance systems in private industry making programs like Skype instead of on the government payroll protecting us from bad guys.
  
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