Skype, the Microsoft’s online message, phone and video chat service, has denied making changes to its system “in order to provide law officers greater access” to its members’ conversations.
It follows reports suggesting infrastructure upgrades had made it easier to hand on users’ chat data.
Skype has now posted a blog saying the changes were made solely to improve user experience and reliability.
But it added it would pass on messages to law enforcement when “appropriate”.
Concern about Microsoft’s intentions were first raised over a year ago after the Conceivablytech blog revealed the firm had filed a US patent for Legal Intercept – a technology “capable of silently copying the communication between at least two entities” on Voip (voice over internet protocol) calls.
It specifically made reference to “Skype and Skype-like applications” despite being filed in 2009, 17 months before Microsoft paid $8.5 billion to take over the service.
Skype has denied making changes to its system "in order to provide law officers greater access" to its members' conversations
In May 2012 the issue was revived after security researcher Kostya Kortchinsky blogged that the firm had changed its “supernode” policy.
While in the past Skype had relied on users with high-spec systems to help its members’ computers locate each other when a call was made, the firm had now switched to a system in which all such connections were made using in-house servers.
This prompted posts on some blogs linking the move to the earlier surveillance patent which were then followed up by the news site Extreme Tech.
Reports in the mainstream media including articles by Forbes, and The Washington Post followed.
The latter said industry and government officials had told it that Skype “has expanded its co-operation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police”.
It said its sources had spoken to it “on the condition of anonymity”.
Skype’s blog post said it was “false” to believe the changes it had made allowed it to monitor and record audio and video calls. It said that while its servers helped members locate each other and maintain quality, the actual call data usually bypassed its equipment going directly from one users’ equipment to another.
“Skype to Skype calls do not flow though our data centres and the <<supernodes>> are not involved in passing media (audio or video) between Skype clients,” wrote Mark Gillett, the firm’s chief development and operations officer.
But he added that group calls including more than two parties were an exception, “where a server aggregates the media streams (video) from multiple clients and routes this to clients that might not otherwise have enough bandwidth to establish connections to all our partners”.
The Washington Post article had focused on written instant messages, rather than video/audio calls.
Mark Gillett denied Skype’s moves had been designed to “facilitate law enforcement” but he did acknowledge the company would give the authorities access to messages if “a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures” and the procedure was “technically feasible”.
His post suggested it would be possible to pass on messages in some instances.
“In order to provide for the delivery and synchronization of instant messages across multiple devices, and in order to manage the delivery of messages between clients situated behind some firewalls which prevent direct connections between clients, some messages are stored temporarily on our (Skype/Microsoft) servers for immediate or later delivery to a user,” he wrote.
Despite security warnings a shocking number of internet users continue to use some of the most blatant letter and number combinations.
In the wake of a security breach at Yahoo a Slovakian IT security company has released a list of the most commonly used passwords for hacked accounts.
ESET carried out a study of the almost half a million account details leaked online by an unknown hacker group, as reported by Yahoo News.
Analysts found that almost 1,700 (0.38%) of the hacked accounts were protected with the password “123456”, while 780 users opted for “password”.
In 2011 “password” was the most commonly used password, according to password management application maker SpashID.
Also in the top 10 were “welcome”, “abc123” and “qwerty”. They are easy to remember but also very easy to guess.
In the wake of a security breach at Yahoo a Slovakian IT security company has released a list of the most commonly used passwords for hacked accounts
ESET advised in a statement: “Since all the accounts are in plain-text, anyone with an account present in the leak which also has the same password on other sites (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc), should assume that someone has accessed their account.”
The security breach happened on Wednesday when a hacker group has posted online the details of 450,000 user accounts and passwords it claimed to have stolen from a Yahoo server.
Anyone who is concerned an account was compromised in the Yahoo attack can visit security company Sucuri’s online check at labs.sucuri.net/?yahooleak.
The Ars Technica technology news website reported that the group, which calls itself D33DS Company, hacked into an unidentified subdomain of Yahoo’s website where they retrieved unencrypted account details.
The affected accounts appeared to belong to a voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP), service called Yahoo Voices, which runs on Yahoo’s instant messenger.
The Voices service is powered by Jajah, a VOIP platform that was bought by Telefonica Europe BV in 2010.
The hackers’ website where the original claim was made, d33ds.co, was not available later on Thursday.
It was registered in February. Industry website CNET reported the hackers as saying the breach was intended as a ‘wake-up call and not as a threat’ and that Yahoo’s security was lax.
The Voices hack is one of several in recent months.
The business networking service LinkedIn admitted last month that 6.4 million member passwords had been stolen from its website.
Top 10 passwords in hacked accounts:
1. “123456” used by 1666 (0.38%)
2. “password” used by 780 (0.18%)
3. “welcome” used by 436 (0.1%)
4. “ninja” used by 333 (0.08%)
5. “abc123” used by 250 (0.06%)
6. “123456789” used by 222 (0.05%)
7. “12345678” used by 208 (0.05%)
8. “sunshine” used by 205 (0.05%)
9. “princess” used by 202 (0.05%)
10. “qwerty” used by 172
Yahoo! News: The most commonly used passwords for hacked Yahoo! accounts
Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 8, the next version of its smartphone operating system.
Windows Phone 8 shares much of its code with the firm’s PC system, making it easier for developers to write programs for different types of devices.
The company said it should mean there would be some “amazing games” for handsets running its new release.
A tie-up with Nokia has already bought several Windows Phone devices to market, but sales lag some way behind models running Android or Apple’s iOS.
Microsoft said Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei would all be making devices powered by the system upgrade.
Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 8, the next version of its smartphone operating system
Other new features announced at the Windows Phone Summit event in San Francisco included:
• Support for multi-core chips, allowing devices to turn on cores to access extra processing power when needed, and to switch off cores when not to preserve battery life
• The ability to work with different screen resolutions including the high definition 720p format
• Support for removable Micro SD cards allowing users to store more media files or install apps saved on the format
• A new “wallet” app allowing the phone to act as both credit and membership cards. It also supports NFC (near field communication) payments
• Built-in maps from Nokia’s Navteq division with turn-by-turn navigation
• A more customizable start screen allowing users the choice of three tile sizes to represent installed software and more color options
• A warning alert if the software believes a website contains malware or is otherwise unsafe
The update also allows internet call software based on VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and video chat technologies to run in the background.
This addresses a complaint that the firm’s own Skype program could not be used to receive calls while its owner was using another application – a function offered on rival platforms.
The firm said VoIP calls should now “feel like any other call” made or received by Windows Phone handsets.
Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 strongly resemble each other – at least when the PC system is run under its Metro interface – and Microsoft was keen to stress that their relationship goes deeper than appearance alone.
The two will share a range of components including graphic drivers, the DirectX collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) and the NT kernel that ties application software to the hardware it is installed on. They can also both support native code in the C and C++ programming languages.
Microsoft said this should not only make it easier to port software between the two environments, but should speed up the time it takes developers to recode programs originally built for iOS and Android.
Microsoft noted more than 100,000 apps had been released for Windows Phone 7.
By contrast there are more than 466,500 programs in the Android marketplace according to search site Appbrain, and “over 500,000” in Apple’s app store according to the iPhone maker.
Securing “marquee titles” is more important to some than raw numbers, and Microsoft addressed this too with news that Gameloft’s Nova 3 and Zynga’s Draw Something were coming to Windows Phone.