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Skype Messages Monitored In China

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the privacy-in-stereo dept.

Security 223

Pickens writes "Human-rights activists have discovered a huge surveillance system in China that monitors and archives Internet text conversations sent by customers of Tom-Skype, a joint venture between a Chinese wireless operator and eBay. Researchers say the system monitors a list of politically charged words that includes words related to the religious group Falun Gong, Taiwan independence, the Chinese Communist Party and also words like democracy, earthquake and milk powder. The encrypted list of words inside the Tom-Skype software blocks the transmission of these words and records personal information about the customers who send the messages. Researchers say their discovery contradicts a public statement made by Skype executives in 2006 that 'full end-to-end security is preserved and there is no compromise of people's privacy.' The Chinese government is not alone in its Internet surveillance efforts. In 2005, The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency was monitoring large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of an eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. 'This is the worst nightmares of the conspiracy theorists around surveillance coming true,' says Ronald J. Deibert, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. 'It's "X-Files" without the aliens.'"

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223 comments

Shocked, I am (5, Funny)

adpsimpson (956630) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234143)

Writing through a scribe over Skype from mainland China, I can confidently say that messages about Falun Gong are not being

Re:Shocked, I am (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234275)

Writing through a scribe over Skype from mainland China, I can confidently say that messages about Falun Gong are not being

You fail it, chink.

Re:Shocked, I am (1, Insightful)

electrictroy (912290) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234463)

>>>China's system monitors a list of politically charged words

I'm confused. What's the problem? This doesn't sound any different from how the United States operate. After all, we gotta stop those terrorists! (Or anybody else who happens to disagree with the currently-sitting president.) /end sarcasm

Re:Shocked, I am (1, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234765)

Why is that reply considered flamebait? Isn't that how it is, really? Recent debates in Sweden is at least about new signal analysis laws for all internationall computer traffic passing our borders. Much worse than just internet telephony alone, even.

Re:Shocked, I am (4, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235327)

This doesn't sound any different from how the United States operate.

The US taps phone calls in an attempt to uncover evidence of violent crimes, to prevent them from happening, and to prosecute and jail those responsible.

China taps phone calls so they can find out who is speaking out against the one-party government, or bringing up other embarrassing subjects, so that they can send police to drag them out of their house, and put them in front of a firing squad.

Clearly, the two are not at all different.

Re:Shocked, I am (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234467)

How is this "redundant"? I actually think it's kinda funny. A first post that isn't "frist psot! [insert link to spammy site here]"!

Re:Shocked, I am (2, Insightful)

amasiancrasian (1132031) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234931)

I honestly don't understand why people think the Falun Gong is great. They're honestly crazy, and while I don't think the Chinese government should stop them from practicing, I really think they should just let them be so people can see how crazy they really are. Most westerners are so enchanted with eastern cultures that have a cultish streak to it. Heck, most of the time they don't even know what it's it about. Ask an American to point out Tibet on a blank map.

What sucks about the Tibetan situation is that there's no true way to get the truth about the situation. Western media is enchanted with the idea of Tibet rather than the reality. Tibetans make up 40% of the population in Lhasa. We take the Dalai Lhama's word as gospel, even though he definitely has his own incentive to distort the truth. And we obviously can't get the straight talk from the Chinese government.

Sadly, it looks very hypocritical to the world when Americans condemn something like the Chinese control of Tibet, while our own country is occupying Iraq and committing our own human rights violations there. And we at least have the power to vote the bastards out of office!

My parents fled to Taiwan, Republic of China, at the end of the civil war. At first I believed the communists were evil, but it's become clear to me that for the first time in Chinese history that every person in China has a bowl of rice to eat. Whether you like them or not, you can't deny that they destroyed a two-thousand year class system.

Re:Shocked, I am (3, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235305)

Tibetans make up 40% of the population in Lhasa.

It used to be 100%. That's sort of the problem.

The atrocities committed in Tibet by the Chinese are well-documented - the wilderness photographer Galen Rowell in particular took a large number of very damning photos, smuggled them out of the country, and when they were revealed to the world, the Chinese banned him for life from ever returning.

It doesn't really matter whether you think the Dalai Lama is a great guy or not, or whether the Iraq situation parallels it - two wrongs don't make a right, and many Americans who oppose what's happened to Tibet also oppose the invasion of Iraq.

In end-to-end security... (4, Insightful)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234165)

...the last thing to trust is closed source implementation or even worse, proprietary protocol.

though I think real paranoid people won't trust something like Skype, right?

Re:In end-to-end security... (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234599)

I think real paranoid people would hand-search the source code of everything. The rest of us would be more practical when it comes to risk management.

Re:In end-to-end security... (1)

Peaker (72084) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234991)

And even then, they are not safe!

You could hide a trojan in the compiler, such that it compiles the seemingly innocent programs with trojans inserted.

Then, you could also hide the trojan in the compiler itself, such that when it compiles the innocent-seeming compiler itself, it inserts the trojan-insertion code into it.

Re:In end-to-end security... (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235271)

But the really cool one would be the compiler that secretly compiles the code for the compiler that secretly compiles the trojan insertion in the third compiler.

Re:In end-to-end security... (5, Insightful)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234849)

This is not about real paranoid people. The real paranoid people (like me) never trusted skype (encrypted, closed source binary blob).
This news is for the non-tinfoil-hat people. Now they too know, like us paranoid people, that their conversations are tracked, recorded, monitored and archived. For real. And now they know, if they read and understand the news, that what skype sad to us all ('full end-to-end security is preserved and there is no compromise of people's privacy.') was a lie. Skype (eBay) lied, maybe one time, maybe on other, more important things too, and maybe they will do it again.

Re:In end-to-end security... (5, Informative)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234981)

Except, even IF you could comb through the code, it doesn't mean that at some higher level your security isn't compromised.

I run a VOIP server and it's ridiculously easy to monitor everything going through it despite a TLS initiated client-server session.

- Text/sms/etc? In the database.
- Voice? Easy to keep a listener on the call. Very easy.

In both cases, there's encryption over the "public wire" but the server's got access to ALL of it. In the U.S., I imagine it's as simple as the NSA visits your CEO and gets full cooperation. CEO tells CTO to cooperate fully with the NSA. All of your communications are now monitored. That is, if the current monitoring at AT&T isn't enough somehow.

The "simple" answer is to decentralize VOIP. How you find and trust VOIP peers is where that ideas falls apart.

Another idea is to encrypt/decrypt the data on the client. Your sms would be good to go.. Encrypting the audio portion of the UDP packets would be very problematic. But it would work.

Running your own communications server is good too. A dumb old P3 with 1GB of ram will run VOIP and mail just fine. In that scenario, you own/control all the parts.

Re:In end-to-end security... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25235073)

Nobody that understands security trusts Skype.
First off its closed source with no means of verifying its security, so its down to trusting the company.

What company? Ebay, who somehow had $2.8billion USD to spend on a product pretty far from their core market.

An american money, spending money they shouldnt have to buy popular communication software.

Yeah, Okay.

Re:In end-to-end security... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25235241)

...the last thing to trust is closed source implementation or even worse, proprietary protocol.

though I think real paranoid people won't trust something like Skype, right?

Are you calling me paranoid, Sir?

I'm writing from China right now (5, Funny)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234245)

I use Skype to communicate with friends in the US, and to discuss politics. I am appalled to read of this invasion of privacy.

Hold on, someone is at the door...

CHINA IS A GREAT NATION THAT WOULD NEVER INVADE MY PRIVACY. THIS ARTICLE IS UNFOUNDED AND BIASED.

Re:I'm writing from China right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234545)

Wait.... why didn't they delete what you had already typed before submitting?

Re:I'm writing from China right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25235131)

in communist cina, post edit you! no wait, post edit everyone!

LOL nice (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234565)

I won't end the friendship yet, digitus (just in case you survive the beating) but ... this article would be news if the title read, "Skype *not* monitored in China!" because China is a dictatorship and therefore you need to expect they monitor everything that everyone is doing to ensure it's in line with the dictator's wishes. What kind of dictatorship would it be if they didn't monitor everyone? It'd be a chaotic dictatorship! It helps to know what's going on when scheduling executions and public beatings. I would be far more concerned if these types of occurrences were arbitrary!

Re:LOL nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234953)

On the same note :
    - "So, been around a lot, have you ?" >;->

Well, congratulations. Nice one.

But I'm waiting till they pull the other one "it's got bells on it".

Re:I'm writing from China right now (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235337)

Hehe..that's great. As someone who lived under Communism for most of my life, I am amazed that people are actually surprised to hear this. Either people are just plain stupid to be shocked by this, or they are bent on repeating/forgetting history pretty quick.

Open source (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234279)

'This is the worst nightmares of the conspiracy theorists around surveillance coming true,' says Ronald J. Deibert, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

This is also an argument in favor of using open source software. I've been dubious in the past about claims that closes-source vendors couldn't be trusted, but apparently I was being naive.

Sounds like the FSF [fsf.org] got this one right.

Re:Open source (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234651)

Have you got a suggestion for one that's cross-platform, does video (perhaps even encrypted?) and is easy-for-grandparents-to-use friendly?

Re:Open source (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235055)

I'd suggest that the app you use for politically-dangerous discussion and the app you use to do video chat with your grandparents should probably not be the same app.

Unless of course your grandparents are politically active and the video chat with them is the politically-dangerous discussion. But in that case, hopefully they retain enough flexibility of mind to learn something less user friendly.

Re:Open source (1)

muuh-gnu (894733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234755)

> This is also an argument in favor of using open source software.

No it isn't, since simply no OSS application matches the features Skype provides accross platforms.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. Which non obscure open source program can I use myself and recommend to my Windows using friends to be able to do text chat, VoIP and webcam, with a easy to use interface, without the need to compile anything and which is actively developed and provided in standard package repositories and will be available in the years to come?

Skype/MSN/ICQ/YIM (which all are able to do Chat/VoIP/Webcam and have been since the 90's) wouldnt be so prevalent if the OSS world would have _anything_ to match their features, or even be better than the proprietary alternatives. Getting a OSS app like firefox know in the CSS world worked because the app in question did its job well. OSS communication suites simply don't. I know half a dozen people who cant/wont leave windows solely for the fact that practically all the available Linux communication apps are scheiße and all lack at least one important feature practically their current Windows/proprietary communication app provides. Not only that, the fact that all leading Linux apps are scheiße, seriously (at least in my circle of friends) affects the linux uptake on netbooks. Whats the point on putting Linux on a mobile device when practically no app works as its mobile windows conuterpart and when yu practiclly cant do anythin besides browsing with firefox? Browsing becomes boring when you cant talk to anybody about it. Cant the "community" somehow team up together and at least get ONE FREAKING SINGLE MULTI PLATFORM COMMUNICATION APP right?

> Sounds like the FSF got this one right.

Then they should start paying developers to make it possible to communicate with other people. Otherwise nobody but IRC users will bother using free software.

Re:Open source (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234815)

No it isn't, since simply no OSS application matches the features Skype provides accross platforms.

I wasn't saying that such software exists at the moment. I was just making the more general point that an open-source application with Skype's functionality would be less likely to secretly harbor such snooping and filtering functionality.

Then they should start paying developers to make it possible to communicate with other people.

They're trying [lwn.net] . Can they count on your donation?

Not the same (2, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234325)

Comparing the Chinese program to the program by the NSA is completely disingenuous. They have they only similarity that they involve surveillance. That is where the similarities stop.

The NSA program was designed to listen in on US citizens talking to people on a known terrorist list. One part of the conversation was always international and one part was domestic. Telephone conversations are two ways and you kind of need to here both side to know what is going on. Now was this illegal? Maybe. Should it have happened? That's up in the air. The program was supposedly done to protect the US Citizens from another terrorist attack.

Compare and contrast this with the Chinese Program. This program exists to control the thoughts of the Chinese people. It censors them and prevents the flow of information. Then it reports on them simply because they are talking about things which in the United States are completely legal to talk about but in China are completely illegal to talk about. China has no freedom of speech. Their every move is watched to control them online. They aren't trying to track terrorists here. They are trying to play mind control. They are trying to censor the publics thoughts.

Re:Not the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234465)

Fuck NSA. What do they have to do with this? The problem lies with Skype.

Closed source software is bad, mmmkay?

Re:Not the same (5, Insightful)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234487)

That's only if you trust the government's claims. They have a pretty bad track record. Just do some research on COINTELPRO or Mockingbird. Or realize that the FBI was openly recruiting people to spy on protest groups in Minnesota before the RNC.

Also remember that the patriot act has been used 1000's of times against people who have done nothing terror related. Elliot Spitzer was caught because of the patriot act. It has mostly been used to get drug dealers and shut down strip joints.

Re:Not the same (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234693)

I didn't say I always trusted the government's motives. I also didn't say it was right. I just said it wasn't the same as what the Chinese are doing. Also some protesters at the RNC did have plans to disrupt the convention so that was well founded. Lastly I agree the Patriot act should not be misused. It probably needs to be rewritten to prevent misuse.

Re:Not the same (3, Insightful)

mathmathrevolution (813581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234847)

What you did was repeat a baseless fairy tale about what the NSA program "was designed" to do, even though this lawless program has never been scrutinized or investigated by anybody and doesn't have a shred of oversight.

Re:Not the same (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235087)

Yikes. Logic escapes some people. My main point is they didn't censor anybody.

Re:Not the same (1)

mathmathrevolution (813581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235211)

No, your point was that the American surveillance program was a safe, anodyne program with limited and necessary objectives and could not possibly be compared to the ubiquitous surveillance state of China. That's why you baselessly claimed to know the design of a beyond-top-secret classified government program:

The NSA program was designed to listen in on US citizens talking to people on a known terrorist list

Re:Not the same (0, Flamebait)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235049)

Do you have any evidence from reliable sources for your claims? Then how do you know they are correct.

That said, it's quite possible that some people planned to protest at the RNC. And to arrest them for trespass, or some such, AFTER THEY HAD DONE SO would have been reasonable. To arrest them ahead of time is "prior restraint" and has in past decades been held to be unconstitutional.

Well, the court has changed, and there likely won't be an appeal that reaches them, so clearly the governments actions must be legal. Clearly.

OTOH, this *IS* a major difference. It's legal for the Chinese government to do whatever it decides to do. For the US government to act in the same way is illegal. This, however, is not proof that the government is acting legally.

Re:Not the same (1)

dogboi (1111269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235115)

Lastly I agree the Patriot act should not be misused. It probably needs to be rewritten to prevent misuse.

It actually shouldn't be used at all. It allows invasion of privacy without due process. It should have been stricken down a long time ago.

Re:Not the same (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235263)

That's only if you trust the government's claims.

Not at all. The government didn't come out and explain this secret program... The program was exposed by the press. Why is it that you believe the press can uncover this program in the first place, but only the relatively benign part, while the evil conspiracy is able to stay hidden?

Or realize that the FBI was openly recruiting people to spy on protest groups in Minnesota before the RNC.

After 9/11, FBI agents were sent out to go under-cover in just about every organization they could, to see if there was any signs of terrorist activities. Having an un-declared FBI agent joint your open group isn't exactly a violation of your human rights.

Also remember that the patriot act has been used 1000's of times against people who have done nothing terror related.

Yes, and? It's a big law, with lots of things in it, and it's not all related to the evil Arab terrorists.

The RICO act has probably been used 1000's of times in cases that it wasn't meant for... So? The law of unintended consequences applies, but that doesn't mean your neighbors are going to start disappearing tomorrow.

Did you just get a fresh shipment of red herring today?

Re:Not the same (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234699)

"They aren't trying to track terrorists here. They are trying to play mind control. They are trying to censor the publics thoughts."

Do you really think the issue in america is really terrorists? terrorists are about a big a deal as asteroid hits, yes it could happen, yes it's good to watch for, no it isn't worth shitting all over peoples rights to deal utterly ineffectively with the slim chance of it doing any real damage any time soon.

In china the difference is that you can be defined as a terrorist if powerful people simply don't like you... hhhmm... not that far from the US then.

How do you know? (2, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234813)

The NSA program was designed to listen in on US citizens talking to people on a known terrorist list.

How do you know that? That's what they say, but how do you know that?

Was the program under some kind of oversight outside of the executive branch? No. Are the details of the program publicly available? No.

You don't actually know how the NSA program compares to the Chinese one. You just hope that's the way it is.

Re:How do you know? (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235007)

Did the NSA cut off phone calls or otherwise censor people?

Re:How do you know? (1)

lysdexia (897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235261)

Don't be obtuse. The point of the program is information gathering. Why would you inform the spied-upon?

Re:Not the same (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234819)

Compare and contrast this with the Chinese Program. This program exists to control the thoughts of the Chinese people. It censors them and prevents the flow of information. Then it reports on them simply because they are talking about things which in the United States are completely legal to talk about but in China are completely illegal to talk about. China has no freedom of speech. Their every move is watched to control them online. They aren't trying to track terrorists here. They are trying to play mind control. They are trying to censor the publics thoughts.

Is it "thoughts" when it's about China and not when it's about the USA? Why are you using such a strong words as "thoughts", when it's really about what they say?

But yeah, there is a difference in what kind of activities the two governments want to stop. In both governments, that definition is up to the government though, and they are no longer always obviously serving the people. "Terrorists" sounds all good and well, but there have been so many news about strange definitions of that.

Re:Not the same (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234871)

Comparing the Chinese program to the program by the NSA is completely disingenuous. They have they only similarity that they involve surveillance. That is where the similarities stop.

That depends on whose propaganda you believe. Removing the red vs blue rhetoric, I'm not convinced there's much difference. There's theater and distraction tactics in both. It's safe to assume that both are censorship, and neither is a good thing, regardless of declared intentions.

Re:Not the same (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235099)

How are they both censorship? Please explain that magical leap in logic to me. I'd like to know.

Re:Not the same (2, Insightful)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234909)

Are you sure you are not on the terrorist list? List time I checked the US had a do-not-fly list of 1 million names and the list continues to grow...

Re:Not the same (1, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234937)

Riiiight.... Here's the problem: if you'd know that one end is a terrorist, you'd go and arrest them. That's because if you have enough information to understand that a specific IP is a terrorist, you know where that IP is coming from and who is sitting behind it. The only reason to eavesdrop in this case is to get more intel, and that's easily achieved with regular FISA-type warrants.

A blanket monitoring system outside of FISA supervision can only exist for one reason: there is not enough information about the conversation to tie it to an existing surveillance program - in other words, the NSA doesn't know that one end is a terrorist. Which in turn means that it is doing blanket surveillance based on something other than pre-existing intel.

Quite frankly, the fact that you swallowed this piece of propaganda scares me more than the fact that it exists. Spooks will always be spooks. However, when the citizens are refusing to do a basic analysis of the propaganda they're being fed, just so that they don't have to deal with the consequences of that analysis, they stop being citizens and start being serfs.

The only difference between what China is doing and what the US is doing is that China is overtly suppressing speech. The US is just reserving its right to do so when someone feels its convenient. That's merely a difference of scale, not principle.

Re:Not the same (2, Interesting)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235157)

I can't believe the vast array of people on Slashdot who so wholeheartedly think their Government is perfectly evil. I understand being critical and I think that's useful but to say that "The day is coming when the US will suppress your free speech" is totally asinine. No that day is not soon approaching. The constitution specifically forbids it. This is contrasted with China where THEY ARE ACTUALLY CENSORING PEOPLE. That IS a difference in PRINCIPLE!

Re:Not the same (1)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235343)

> The constitution specifically forbids it.

It also forbids warrentless wiretapping. Great job on following the Constitution the government has done since 9/11, wouldn't you say?

Re:Not the same (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235353)

Wow - you managed to completely miss the point of my post.

Whether the current approach is unconstitutional is completely irrelevant. It also has no impact on the evilness of Government. It simply is a surveillance systems that is forced to monitor EVERYTHING that it can, because it cannot possibly know enough to do the differentiation that the government claims it does. Simple as that. Once you monitor, you can intercept and censor. That's it. As for what is done with that capability, past experience is a good guide.

Re:Not the same (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234941)

i don't see how surveillance is mind-control. the Chinese government want to root out dissidents and suppress dissenting opinions, just as has been done in the U.S. throughout history. ever heard of COINTELPRO? this kind of blatant abuse of political power to actively suppress political dissent was most rampant during J. Edgar Hoover's reign of the FBI and slowly declined after his death. but in recent years such practices have been revived once again.

all governments, especially unpopular ones, fear dissent and subversion. and since political activism can be seen as a subversive act, governments have always targeted activist groups, whether openly or behind closed doors. the recent illegal wiretapping scandal [eff.org] is concrete evidence of such abuses. and under the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T.A.C.T. the federal government can now freely target activist groups [aclu.org] under the guise of combating terrorism.

Re:Not the same (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235251)

RTFA! The Chinese actually block communication involving certain words. That is censorship. The mind control portion flows with the censorship because the the Chinese people don't know about something they can't think about it.

I never said what the NSA did was right. I just said it's not the same. Secondly COINTELPRO targeted organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan and the Weatherman. Both of those organization were actually terrorist. Did the program get misused? Yes it did and I don't defend that. But don't throw out blanket statements about history and expect me to swallow it when it's not completely factual. I agree oversight is needed. I agree with all that. However I think there is a difference from making speeches and promoting causes as compared to leading violent uprisings and committing crimes. We live in a democracy. If you don't like how the Government is then VOTE.

Re:Not the same (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234943)

The chinese program is an open-ended restriction. The rules are maintained exclusively by the chinese ruling political party. There is no "law" in a real sense.

The US/NSA programs still are restricted to USC18-118 [usdoj.gov] . I'm sure it's taken seriously in all agencies ;) . Yes, there's been report on abuses or violations of this law, and/or a political agenda to rewrite it and releasing any protections, but that's completely different discussion and usually involves a small number of powerful [corrupt] people.

Re:Not the same (1)

goffster (1104287) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235005)

It simply means that the chinese are ahead of the curve. They do it, get away with it, and we follow the lead.

Re:Not the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25235085)

Here comes this fascist again... Have you updated your resume already after you saw the last Presidential election polls?
I think you need to find another job fast. Or you might drown to death when your ex-president goes swim on a pool...
Fascist Americans won't have that much space on the new government...

Re:Not the same (2, Interesting)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235257)

The NSA program was designed to listen in on US citizens talking to people on a known terrorist list. One part of the conversation was always international and one part was domestic.

Care to show me all of the national security letters that document this? Oh, wait, that's right, they're classified and impose an immediate gag order on anybody who receives one.

As we all know, the government would never lie to us [wikipedia.org] , especially to go to war, and especially not the NSA [wikipedia.org] . Of course, when caught red-handed in their own documents, they claim that "The opinions expressed within the documents in both releases are those of the authors and individuals interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Security Agency." [nsa.gov]

Please tell me why I should trust anything that the NSA says at face value.

Surprise, surprise. (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234333)

We already know that it's possible to listen in on Skype conversations. Is it any stretch of the imagination that China would be doing it?

How do they catch encrypted words? (0)

Van Cutter Romney (973766) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234335)

The encrypted list of words inside the Tom-Skype software blocks the transmission of these words and records personal information about the customers who send the messages.

Don't tell me they're encrypting the text word-by-word.

Re:How do they catch encrypted words? (1)

adpsimpson (956630) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234555)

From the summary, it seems that this is being done on the client's computer, before encryption:

The encrypted list of words inside the Tom-Skype software blocks the transmission of these words and records personal information about the customers who send the messages

Re:How do they catch encrypted words? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234775)

Yep. I think they're probably using rot13.

No, wait. The Chinese use about 2000 simplified characters instead of words made of letters. So it's probably more like rot1027 or something like that.

Re:How do they catch encrypted words? (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235289)

The encrypted list of words inside the Tom-Skype software blocks the transmission of these words and records personal information about the customers who send the messages.

Don't tell me they're encrypting the text word-by-word.

There's a list of banned words inside the Skype software. That list of banned words is encrypted in order to prevent someone from arbitrarily modifying it through a hex editor, etc. When using Skype, you type something (obviously in plain text) into the Skype program. The Skype program then scans over the plain text you typed, compares it against its word list -- which is decrypted for the comparison -- and takes appropriate action.

A new arms race? (3, Interesting)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234353)

There are a couple of messaging softwares that use encryption. People tend to simply not care in the west about things like Tor, Freenet, I2P and encryption options in text messaging but if more scenarios that are NOT linked to child porn arise, maybe people will start to consider the more legitimate reasons to fight for our right to privacy?

I believe we need more crypto-anarchists in this world. Where are the cypherpunks when we need them?

Once again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234371)

Once again: Stallman was right. It's a trap! [slashdot.org]

Re:Once again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234691)

404 File Not Found

Your World Delivered.... To the NSA (0, Troll)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234379)

What do you expect when the NSA is the phone company?

Echelon anyone?

Re:Your World Delivered.... To the NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234637)

I'd probably expect them to actually charge a fee so that they can pay for access in order to carry out this universal surveilance. Some sort of "Universal Access Tax."

Hey. Wait a minute...

Not the worst nightmare at all (5, Insightful)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234413)

'This is the worst nightmares of the conspiracy theorists around surveillance coming true,'

No. The worst nightmare would be when this comes true and no one cares.

Re:Not the worst nightmare at all (2, Insightful)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234535)

Judging from not only the votes in congress with respect to bills like the FISA Amendments Act, I would say that already, very few people care. The unfortunate reality I have found is that those of us truly concerned about these things represent a small percentage of the population.

For the most part, John Q. Public is happy to hand over their rights, and they _don't_ care - and I am scared.

And no one cares (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234671)

Or they selectively care based on whether "their" party is in power or not.

Re:Not the worst nightmare at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25235179)

Right... so pretty much game over then. I would do a little research to see if this story is making headlines anywhere else... but I really don't have to. I think we all know it won't. Plus.. I don't really care.

Skype Messages Monitored In U.S. +1, Helpful (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234477)

what's the difference?

Submitter is a troll (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234493)

So, we have an interesting report about China,.

Then, for no intelligent reason, a trroll about a US story that has been hashed, rehashed, and corned beef hashed to death, in an obvious attempt to draw some kind of moronic equivalence.

Submitter is a troll.

Re:Submitter is a troll (4, Insightful)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234655)

No, the fact of the matter is that Skype, when they stated that their software was encrypted end-to-end, lied. The question then remains, with the ongoing domestic spying operations in the United States, what is to keep software like Skype from applying such policies to all their closed-source software?

I think the poster's point is that Skype is enabling this behavior, and Skype, in case you haven't noticed, has a presence all over the world.

Re:Submitter is a troll (1)

mathmathrevolution (813581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25235111)

Jing Xu writes:

So, we have an interesting report about China.

Then, for no intelligent reason, this submission is typical anti-China propaganda about bogus allegations that have been hashed, rehashed, and Mu Shu Pork Lo Mein hashed to death. Submitter is grasping at straws to draw a moronic parallel between the limited and lawful use of technology in China and the secret prisons, state-sanctioned torture, warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, process-less and indefinite imprisonments, and the virtual abolition of Fourth Amendment guarantees of the USA.

Submitter is a troll.

Either open-source the Skype engine or abandon it (3, Interesting)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234537)

Either open-source the Skype engine or abandon it.

Skype devices could still be manufactured only under license, so their profit stream wouldn't dry up. No doubt it's all trademarked and copyrighted and patented to hell and back by the company anyway, so open-sourcing wouldn't be giving free reign to the competition.

But if they want to retain a trusting customer base, the only option now is to open-source the Skype engine and protocol, otherwise it's end of game.

I'll certainly be letting all my friends know about this. While they may be discussing only granny's Xmas presents or their boyfriends' vital measurements, it's no business of the snoop agencies to hear it.

Meanwhile, it's not as if VoIP didn't have any open alternatives. There is no need to support a vendor that cannot be trusted.

zzzzzzzzz. (0)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234557)

well. if they monitor the internet usage of the average slashdotter then they'll go blind, I'm sure.

honestly, did anybody seriously think this was *not* happening?

Monitoring affects text-chatting only, not voice (0, Offtopic)

g_adams27 (581237) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234601)

According to the Skype Blog [skype.com] , this is a text filter that only applies to TOM-Skype. If you use regular Skype, or if you use Skype or TOM-Skype for voice (rather than text) communication, you are still secure.

Yeah, I know... I don't trust them either. But even the NYT article didn't uncover any snooping of the actual voice calls (although the phone numbers and names of those involved in the call [b]were[/b] being recorded.)

I tried using Zfone [zfoneproject.com] with Gizmo [gizmo5.com] a year or two ago, since I trusted the inventor of PGP to provide a better security solution than Skype's proprietary secret encryption. Unfortunately (at least at that time), the voice quality and ability to handle NAT wasn't as good in Gizmo as it was in Skype. Wonder if they've improved it yet?

Re:Monitoring affects text-chatting only, not voic (1)

g_adams27 (581237) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234719)

> If you use regular Skype, or if you use Skype or TOM-Skype for voice
> (rather than text) communication, you are still secure.

Following up on my own comment, I should point out that you are not secure if you are having a text chat with someone who uses TOM-Skype, even if you yourself use the regular Skype.

John Markoff, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234661)

Wake me when a real journalist reports on it.

Dear Cowboy Neal, (0)

Green Salad (705185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234673)

Please send my agency the list of IP addresses, indexed by user-name, linked to the comments users have posted here in response to this article about online privacy. If you could export it to Excel, my analysts would much appreciate it. I promise not to abuse this information and will use it only to help identify and track enemies. By the way, my organization is considering advertising on your website.

an interesting link (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234707)

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iD_wQwD-Ra3ADqTfFRGr1thY8aTA

Seems that the problem was not buggy crypto, but their communist partner company. Should avoid these.

Stock response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234745)

Well, that just goes to show you how much better I am than all of you because I use NoScript! Stupid commoners!

Wait, what's this story about, again? Encryption? Oh, right, right, I meant to say OTR. Yeah, that's it. OTR. I'm better than you.

seriously people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234787)

I wish the tubes were free and secure, but they are not and never will be. Telephone lines never were either, snail mail too ... pile up all the law and activism you want against wire tapping, it's not gonna change and if you believe them when they say it has changed ... well, that's your own fault.

New? (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234827)

This is more or less the way things have always been. Why the shock? The only news is that it is much easier and cheaper to gather orders of magnitude more data of a wider variety than back in the day (whenever you think that was).

Prudent individuals should assume that all of their actions, transactions, and speech are being monitored and recorded, either passively by devices that are coincidentally nearby, or actively by individuals and organizations that are collecting data for some particular purpose. They should also assume that the records will last forever, at least for practical purposes, and will likely become public at some point.

Too paranoid for you? OK. Ignore me.

Har...

Joke about freedom of mail (3, Funny)

saigon_from_europe (741782) | more than 5 years ago | (#25234925)

A communist from the West decides to move to USSR. He explained to his friends that he would write letters to them. Worried about freedom of mail, he explained them that if he writes anything in red ink, that would mean that reality is opposite from the written.

He moves there, and after a while, the first mail finally arrives. It says: "Everything is great here in USSR. People are happy, wealthy, there is a lot of everything in stores, freedom is enormous. The only problem I have seen here is that you cannot buy any red ink."

'It's "X-Files" without the aliens.'" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25234933)

'It's "X-Files" without the aliens.'

come on, GWB is an alien.

communist country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25235021)

I find it amusing that people are shocked by this. It must be because China makes everything now. I guess a lot of people forget it is a totalitarian communist country.

Get the list from 2006! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25235397)

June 2006: http://recon.cx/en/f/vskype-chinese-blacklist.7z
which comes from
http://recon.cx/en/f/vskype-part1.pdf
http://recon.cx/en/f/vskype-part2.pdf
(more goodies about this on http://recon.cx/en/f/)
which are a sequel of the more known
https://www.secdev.org/conf/skype_BHEU06.handout.pdf

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