Skype Revenue from National Security Agency?

by Moshe Yudkowsky

Last week's arrest in Hungary of a staffer for Senator Hillary Clinton has exposed severe privacy violations by VoIP provider Skype as well as the US National Security Agency. This according to accusations by the Hungarian police and the European Union.

The suspect, who recently left the US National Security Agency to join Clinton's Presidential campaign, was arrested on an unrelated charge. An examination of the suspect's briefcase revealed transcripts of a conversation between Laszlo Bene, the head of the Hungarian police, and Stefan Feller, head of the police in Brussels. According to Hungarian police, the suspect confessed that he had eavesdropped on the conversation — not by using a "bug," but by turning on a microphone on the desk of Bene's computer. Hungarian police refused to answer questions about the suspect's identify or the staffer's position within the Clinton Presidential campaign. Police in Brussels, sensitive to a series of recent police scandals, issued only a brief statement that they were investigating a possible privacy violation.

Sources in the Hungarian police department revealed that the background traffic associated with running Skype on a personal computer provides an ideal method to hide the transfer of data from an individual's computer without the owner's knowledge or consent. Skype can "turn on a computer's microphone on command," said a highly-placed source, "and no one will be the wiser." The data are routed to servers that use speech recognition to look for suspicious phrases. Furthermore, algorithms can use the sound of keyclicks to guess at which keys are being struck, which allows anyone listening to determine now only what is being said but what is being typed.

The European Commission has opened an investigation. "The suspect worked at the US National Security Agency, where he learned of an agreement between Skype and Echelon to enable a 'spy' mode on all Skype products," said Alain Brun, head of data protection at the European Commission. "He used that capability to commit a serious crime. Skype is a European company, not an American one, and we intend to investigate their potential culpability in this matter very thoroughly."

Financial analysts believe that a Skype-NSA could explain Skype's business model. "Outside payments by government agencies would explain how Skype can hope to make a profit," said an anonymous source at Dean Witter. "Otherwise the purchase of Skype by eBay still doesn't make sense."

Skype could not be reached for comment. The Clinton campaign announced that Senator Clinton would make a statement at a press conference later today.


Jason Sjobeck
2007-04-01 11:29:56
It seems that we tend to forget every so often (weekly?) that you can not trust any one. When we tell most people they need to be very concerned, they say that they do not want to be paranoid, but, alas, it is not, is it.
2007-04-01 21:10:33
Well, I am unsure whether this could be an April Fool's or not.

If I look at recent experience I gathered with Skype and Skypecasts, I am afraid it might not be:

2007-04-02 16:17:57
Brilliant, sir.

You don't know a close this came to going "viral". Thank God some of my right wingnut friends are smarter than I.

Adm Turner
2007-06-23 13:38:48
Uhhh... Skype is an Estonian company with servers in Luxembourg. The encrypted traffic travels over a massive peer-to-peer network of fellow worldwide Skype user PCs. It is essentially practically unbreakable for OUTSIDERS like the NSA (et al). However, Skype can monitor their own VOIP traffic if they wanted to. They'd have to have a reason to screw their customers. Their business model is sound as they charge for their services worldwide. They have a San Jose CA marketing operation to market to America.

President Bush recently visited Tallinn Estonia obviously because he got wind of this so-called UNBREAKABLE VOIP target for his NSA spooks at Fort Meade MD (i.e. to stop the evil-doers from using it you know). He went there to make a deal (i.e. threat) and I think he fell flat on his face IMO. You see Estonia used to be a Communist Bloc country with connections to Soviet KGB/FSB. So if Skype has any hidden agenda it is not with Mr. Bush but with Mr. Putin and friends.

Why would EBAY want PAYPAL and SKYPE? Come on do the math. It ain't rocket science. EBAY is worldwide and wants secure commincations for their clients. PAYPAL just went RSA secure for passwords. These particular guys are getting really serious about customer privacy! Why should Mr. Bush know your business? What does your EBAYing PAYPALing and SKYPEing have to do with Homeland Security? GOOD JOB BROWNIE!