The free messaging and internet phone service Skype carries a number of worrying security concerns which could put users living in oppressive regimes in danger, says the advocacy group Privacy International.
The free internet telephony service has around 700m users worldwide, including at least 20m in China and an unknown number in Middle Eastern countries.
Among areas that Privacy International has identified as weaknesses are:
• the use in the Skype interface of names rather than unique IDs, meaning that people can be impersonated in the user list;
• Skype downloads are not made through a secure connection (to, say, https://skype.com), which means that other sites can masquerade as the main site and offer compromised versions of the software - something that has happened in the past in China;
• the audio compression system used in Skype allows phrases to be identified with an accuracy of between 50% and 90%, even with encryption applied.
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