German Government Struggles To Tap Encrypted Skype Calls

from the crypto-works dept

The Wikileaks project is starting to bear fruit, with documents leaked to the site beginning to get a lot of attention. The latest example is correspondence between the German government and a vendor (via Slashdot) that apparently makes software for intercepting Skype calls. Interestingly, the interception technology appears to be pretty primitive and rather expensive. The software has to be installed on the Skype client, and the vendor suggests that this can be accomplished by attaching a trojan to an e-mail or physically entering the premises to install the software on the target machine. And, evidently, only Windows 2000 and XP are supported; Vista support is still in the works. The company charges thousands of euros per target computer. This suggests that Skype's encryption technology is secure against at least the eavesdropping techniques available to the German government. Apparently they haven't found a way to decode encrypted Skype traffic off the wire, so they're forced to resort to these fairly cumbersome attacks on Skype clients -- attacks that are no more convenient for law enforcement than simply bugging the target's office. That suggests that the risk of comprehensive government surveillance of online telephony is still a fair ways off. If you encrypt your online activities, they're probably pretty secure. Of course, it's entirely possible that other government agencies, such as the NSA, have more sophisticated eavesdropping technology that they haven't shared with the Germans. My guess is that any government agencies possessing really sophisticated eavesdropping tools are also less likely to have their private documents show up on Wikileaks.
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Filed Under: encryption, germany, skype, trojans, voip, wiretapping
Companies: skype


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  1. identicon
    Devil's Advocate, 28 Jan 2008 @ 2:05pm

    Paranoia

    And if you were an intelligence agent and you *haven't* cracked anyone's encryption would you go around saying you have? What exactly would you have to gain? Pushing the opponent even further in the cryptographic arms-race?

    Now I'm not saying the NSA doesn't do things most of us haven't even imagined - infact I'd be very disappointed if they hadn't - but not stating they've cracked what is considered an extremely effective encryption requiring massive computational resources to maliciously decrypt tells us, in my opinion,

    absolutly nothing.

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