Yes, China Is Spying On Skype Conversations
from the end-to-end-to-gov't-encryption dept
Remember how Skype was supposed to be “untappable” due to end-to-end encryption? Well, we’ve already seen that’s not true, thanks to leaks that showed the German government had figured out ways to tap Skype, and it will probably come as no surprise to many that China has been tapping and storing Skype conversations. Some of the findings of this report are not new. Back in 2005, reports came out that various Chinese telecoms were investing in special “filters” for Skype that would block conversations using certain keywords. But, of course, it seemed rather obvious that if they were blocking those keywords, they would also use them to spy on what people were talking about. Besides, if the telecoms didn’t filter or record Skype, the Chinese government made it clear that it would block the use of Skype altogether.
The only really surprising part of the new report was the fact that the folks storing the messages did it so poorly that the researchers who discovered it were easily able to go in and read messages from others. It’s rather telling to note the responses from the two companies involved. A Skype spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal: “The idea that China’s government might be monitoring communications in and out of the country shouldn’t surprise anyone.” No, it shouldn’t surprise anyone, but one might think it’s rather troubling that Skype promotes itself as having end-to-end encryption, when that’s clearly not true. Even more telling, the only thing about this report that seemed to actually concern representatives from Skype was the fact that the conversations had been readable by outsiders, again, telling the WSJ that the “security issue” had been “remedied” by Skype’s partner in China, TOM Group. In other words, Skype isn’t so concerned about users being spied on, but it is concerned when people can figure out that users are being spied on.
As for TOM Group, its response is pretty much exactly what you’d expect on this issue: “as a Chinese company, we adhere to rules and regulations in China where we operate our businesses.” In other words, the government says they need to spy, so we let them spy. Nothing too surprising, but important for folks to know if they somehow thought that Skype’s supposed end-to-end encryption actually kept conversations secret in China.