A recent statement by Microsoft on the National Security Agency (NSA), indirectly hints that any communication via Skype could be intercepted and given to the NSA.
In a blog post the company said it “[assumes] that all calls, whether over the Internet or by fixed line or mobile phone, will offer similar levels of privacy and security.”
In other words, Skype calls are no different to traditional phone calls made by a landline or cellphone. So the U.S goverment, through the PRISM program, can force Microsoft to hand over any Skype communication; something which they have always denied is technically possible.
Privacy researcher Ashkan Soltani says “They’re implying that until they can say more, all they’re going to say is ‘don’t assume Skype is different.’”
In a tweet, ACLU’s principal technologist and senior policy analyst Christopher Soghoian echoed Soltani’s thoughts: “Microsoft, a company with dozens of cryptographers, aims to offer same security and privacy for Internet calls as regular phones (aka none).”
In 2008, Skype was owned by eBay and claimed that due to “peer-to-peer architecture and encryption techniques,” it was impossible for them to comply with wiretap requests.
When Microsoft were asked to explain the sentence, a spokesperson said that when the company was last asked about that, it declined to comment and its position has not changed since.
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggest that Microsoft has changed Skype’s architectuure making it possible to provide audio and video calls. In response to the allegations that they have actively helped the NSA and FBI, Microsoft released a long statement.
“To be clear, we do not provide any government with the ability to break the encryption, nor do we provide the government with the encryption keys,” Smith wrote. “When we are legally obligated to comply with demands, we pull the specified content from our servers where it sits in an unencrypted state, and then we provide it to the government agency.”
Microsoft has also sent a letter to the U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting that he get involved and allow them to reveal more details on how it responds to government requests. They have made requests to the Depatment of Justice, the FBI and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) but so far the court has not responded to Microsoft’s requests.
“We believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information,” reads Smith’s blog post. “The United States has been a role model by guaranteeing a Constitutional right to free speech. We want to exercise that right. With U.S. Government lawyers stopping us from sharing more information with the public, we need the Attorney General to uphold the Constitution.”
[Image via ffh]