The Words That Cause Skype to Spy on You, Snitch to Chinese Authorities


It has been known for years that the made-for-China version of Skype, run in conjunction with local web company TOM Online, spies on its users. Now a 27-year-old computer-science graduate student, Jeffrey Knockel, has figured out a bunch of keywords that cause Skype to snitch on you and send a chat-log to its servers where authorities, in accordance with local laws, may find out what you’re chatting about. Of course, most of the terms are obvious “sensitive” words that get removed from all over the Chinese web every minute of every day. Still, it’s a fascinating read over on BusinessWeek. Here’s a snippet:

Knockel, a bearded, yoga-practicing son of a retired U.S. Air Force officer, has repeatedly beaten the ever-changing encryption that cloaks Skype’s Chinese service. This has allowed him to compile for the first time the thousands of terms—such as “Amnesty International” and “Tiananmen”—that prompt Skype in China to intercept typed messages and send copies to its computer servers in the country. Some messages are blocked altogether.

[…] Microsoft, which bought Skype in 2011, is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, a group that promotes corporate responsibility in online freedom of expression. “I would hope for more,” Knockel says of Microsoft. “I would like to get a statement out of them on their social policy regarding whether they approve of what TOM-Skype is doing on surveillance.”

Hit the source for the full piece.