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Does Your Employer Ban Skype?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the loss-of-a-communication-tool dept.

Businesses 154

neutralino asks: "This morning, we received an company-wide email stating that the Max Planck Society (a German government funded research organization) has outlawed the use of P2P software at all of its institutes (including ours). The statement specifically singled out the use of Skype for internet telephony. The reasons given for this were that 'the exchanged data cannot be controlled' (therefore it might be illegal) and that 'Max-Planck or research resources in general might be abused, if "only" for commercial purposes.' This caught us by surprise, since many of us use VoIP to communicate with friends and family and collaborators, in our respective home countries. Is it now standard practice for companies, government organizations, and universities to outlaw Skype? Should it be?"

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Of course they do ... (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620098)

I'm not going to tell you what company I work for but it is easily in the top 50 of the Fortune 500 [usatoday.com] . And, yes, Skype is banned--my employer would never let anyone use Skype.

On top of that, I don't have administrative rights to install anything on my computer. I have to go through a large control process to achieve that which requires me to explain what the software will be used for (and it better be a company resource). Therefore, it's almost out of the question to ask for it to be installed.

My company (and I have the feeling that many others are like this, too) would far rather throw truck loads of money at AT&T rather than risk something going wrong with the P2P aspects of Skype.

Furthermore, any kind of free software scares my employer. Big time. I know Skype isn't necessarily free so this is about other software I may want to use. They have this fear that they would be a large target if whoever wrote said software decided to take legal action upon discovering that employees of company X all used it to complete their daily jobs.

Not even stadiums full of lawyers claiming that, due to some software licenses, there's nothing to worry about could convince them otherwise.

Re:Of course they do ... (4, Funny)

Kesch (943326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620251)

Not even stadiums full of lawyers...

Did the temperature just drop in here, or is it just me?

My employer *requires* skype (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620322)

We have offices in 3 states and 2 countries; and long-distance charges were actually a significant expense.


Last year, we started recommending that employees use Skype for most routine meetings (most sensitive meetings are still recommended to use phone lines since people questioned Skype's author's previous company's business model).


Why skype? It was the best cross-platform (Mac & Windows & Linux) voice conference system we could find.

Re:My employer *requires* skype (2, Interesting)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620577)

17 countries 22 offices... communication solution within company and partners(more than 500 worldwide): Skype.

End result: Huge savings.

We could ofcourse have used some other VOIP solution for the actual communication inside the company, but with the large partnernetwork needed a solution that people will be happy to adopt.. as they can use it for other communications too not only with us.

Re:Of course they do ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620796)

First, the PP should not be modded funny. It should be marked as informative.

I am an Admin for a fortune 500 company as well (hence the AC post) and our company policy has us banning and blocking EVERYTHING that is not job related; inbound and outbound. Software, hardware, wireless devices, etc. Yeah, that is correct, personal laptops are banned. They are potential source of outside influence (viruii, tojran horses, etc.)

Hell, you need to be a manager or above to access the Web outside of our Intranet, and even then it's restricted and logged.

We have set up an internal chat client for employees to talk to one another.... and that is logged as well.

Frankly, it works best this way. Nobody is surfing aimlessly, nobody is emailing for non-company business, nobody is being interupted with non-company IM chat, and people get their work done. Remove the temptation and work gets done.

While they are on our clock, they are working for us and doing what we tell them. This isn't play time, it's work time. The OP's implication of "free internet for all, open the ports, lets us do what we want" is a load of crap. If you want to screw around, do it at home on your own time.

We did have an employee hack through the firewall once to his home machine and used port forwarding to open up all those things we didn't want him to have acces to. His actions caused him to get a virus from outside, unfiltered email, and he took down his local departments computers before it was contained. He was fired and prosecuted for damage to the corporate property.

If you, the OP, are thinking of breaking the rules, you better think about it twice before you act. The rules are in place to protect the company and to protect you. Frack around and you may find yourself looking for a new job at best, in jail at worst.

Re:Of course they do ... (5, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621349)

"Nobody is surfing aimlessly, nobody is emailing for non-company business, nobody is being interupted with non-company IM chat, and people get their work done. Remove the temptation and work gets done."

I guess it works for you. I personally couldn't work at a place that didn't treat me like a responsible adult. I do Oracle admin, and the good sign of a good DBA is when things are working, and you have some 'free time'. I often use this free time to not only surf for Oracle related topics, but, other general topics that interest me. Often, these topics are technical in nature, and have led to suggestions to try new things for our group or project...such as trying linux on our test computers. And this has been on DoD computers!! Someone that IS anal about security.

Also, if I can take some time during the day, when you have to get things done...pay a bill here or there, or contact people for personal reasons, it helps to allow the use of company/gov. computers to do this. I can do this there quickly, or I can take time off from work, leave, or stay home to do this, and that time away is time I'm missing to do work related things. I mean sure, if you're surfing porn and such at work, yeah, you should be canned. And if you're not responsible enough to not do something stupid like bring in a worm or virus (not a problem so far, as that I rarely use windows on my workstations, usually on my Linux boxes.

I guess my philosophy, is treat people like adults, if someone blows it, can them, but, don't penalize everyone just 'in case' someone might do something wrong or naughty.

Why is this modded Funny? (2, Funny)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621155)

I work for a major US cell phone carrier, and we have the exact same problems. Pretty much all non-HTTP, FTP, or SSH traffic outside of the LAN is blocked. We don't have administrator rights to our laptops, and there is a huge bureaucratic lag on getting things installed that requires a lot of justification. Getting log-ins on machines we need access to do our jobs can take two weeks to get approval. Personally, I'm of the opinion after butting heads a few times that the job of our IT department is to prevent work from getting done.

(Our excuse du jour is "SOX compliance." What's yours?)

Re:Why is this modded Funny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621708)

Our excuse du jour is "SOX compliance." What's yours?)


If I had mod points I'd slap you with a funny too.
SOX says absolutely nothing about specific vendors of VOIP software.


The fact that a skype competitor blocks skype and uses accounting legislation as an excuse is funnier than hell. It's like Office Space in real-life.


(yeah, SOx does mean you have a hard time running Skype on the same box as Oracle Financals (unless you're ebay and can audit the source code because you own skype) -- but for 90+% of your employees, it doesn't say anything of the sort).

Re:Why is this modded Funny? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14622282)

Unfortunately I have to post anonymously because I don't want my employer to find this...

but in my company, it is the same thing... plus we have web filters that block access to an incredible amount of websites, it is really an inconvenience... Plus all instant messaging is blocked by default. In order to use IM you need to specifically request which IM, which ID, and your conversation ARE recorded AND reviewed.

I am lucky for a few things... USB keys are possible, firefox is an authorized application, and they just authorized gaim so it doesn't look suspicious.

We do have ssh authorized with putty. I have Firefox portable, gaim portable, thunderbird portable installed on my USB key. First thing I do when i arrive at work in the morning, I run a putty session in the background, establish a ssh tunnel to a secret machine I have that goes to a sockd I have on a machine I own outside of the company network. From there, I have all my applications, Gaim, Thunderbird, Firefox, configured to use the SSH tunnel + sockd proxy on the other side for all my private needs... I must be the only one in the company to still have unrestricted access to anything I want...

I also use centericq when I want to be discrete in an ssh window... Good thing I have control over some Unix machines from which I have ssh access to the outside...

but yeah, it sucks... big time... when I joined the company I was SO frustrated at the restrictions... So i started to look at ways to go around them...

For what I am doing it is fine, nothing is time sensitive. I don't do p2p, I don't do VoIP so it is okay and it works fine... I've been doing this for 3 months now, and I can breath again...

If they discover me? Probably ground for layoff, though I wouldn't mind, I am currently interviewing and close to another job offer.

so, the moral of this?? Hmmm... if your company allow USB keys, portable [firefox|gaim|thunderbird|etc...] are your friends... You can even 'install' them on your local machine if you don't have admin privilege as there is nothing to install. Just unpack and run... But I do it on a USB on the back of my pc because it is discrete...

Re:Of course they do ... (1)

Intangion (816356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621280)

wow i bet we work at the same place

where i work also has the same irational fear of free or open source software

(also you cant install anything unless its from an approved list, and getting anything on that list, even if its free and totally mission critical is nearly impossible)

Re:Of course they do ... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621373)

"also you cant install anything unless its from an approved list, and getting anything on that list, even if its free and totally mission critical is nearly impossible.."

Hmm...so, you must be working on an NMCI network, right?

:-)

Re:Of course they do ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621281)

I work for a large technology arm of a Fortune 500 company, and we are encouraged to use Skype. IT even give out free headsets. My work entails a lot of travel to China, Indonesia, etc, and mobile phone/land-line quality is far below that of skype (and not cheap at ~US$5/minute).

It isnt outlawed (-1, Troll)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620105)

It is not outlawed, it is against policy... there is a difference.. you will not be arrested, you will be held accountable through employment... Why do people insist on calling things illegal when it is simply against some rules

Re:It isnt outlawed (-1, Troll)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620165)

schmuck...

The summary is referring to the fact that p2p use can be illegal if you're downloading zErOdAy cracks!!11 (oneone!)

Not its use in and of itself.

definition of illegal (1, Offtopic)

sneezinglion (771733) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620278)

See the definition here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dict.asp?Word=ill egal [thefreedictionary.com] if you are going to be a pedantic jerk, at least be right! if it is against the rules it is illegal!

Re:definition of illegal (-1, Flamebait)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620328)

oh you got a dictionary def, which is rather meaningless in day to day conversation... the usage of the word illegal means to most people, breaking a law. cock

Re:definition of illegal (0, Redundant)

sneezinglion (771733) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620407)

And you were commenting on how it did not mean what they thought it meant. Just because _YOU_ don't know what a word means does not mean nobody else does. The way we are able to communicate with each other is with a shared understanding of what words mean. You jumped on the submitter's choice of words, but did it in a way that didnot indicate full understanding of the words used. I chose to show you a link to a definition of the words in question. you chose to call me a cock when you saw that you were wrong. Good comeback. :)

Re:definition of illegal (-1, Troll)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620543)

yes i decided to call you a cock, just like you called me a jerk. kettle meet pot.

Re:definition of illegal (1)

Ricwot (632038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621730)

Ahem, the current Oxford English Dictionary, the sole authority on the english language, gives:

        Not legal or lawful; contrary to, or forbidden by, law.

Re:It isnt outlawed (1)

RY (98479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621936)

My company does not ban most software, but only agency approved (Read directly work related) software can be loaded.
This policy came about from people loading every cute program, screen saver and online streaming viewer which would slow the computer and clog bandwith.
it still gives the users some latitude in using software to increase producivity with out breaking the computers and slowing the networks.
Programs which has a negitive effect on the network and productivity are tracked and removed.

No reason for Skype. (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620114)

From their point of view it is simple.
You want to talk to friends or family do it on your time.
If it is work related use their phone system.

And make sure to keep it to work. (1)

IAAP (937607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620228)

I just heard on the "Clark Howard Show" today that 90% of employers monitor internet access and 50% monitor phone calls. Yes, they listen in.

Your right to privacy just about disappears when you walk into your employer's offices.

Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (2, Funny)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620364)

it doesn't disappear.

Just sort of like your sleezy cousin Vinny, it waits outside for you to get off work ;-)


Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (2, Interesting)

finkployd (12902) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620449)

I'm a huge fan of privacy, but where on earth do people get the idea they have free reign to privately use company resources? Some companies are cool about this sort of thing but there is certainly no "right" to make private, personal use of company network and phone systems.

Finkployd

Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (2, Informative)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620615)

We have a very clear policy: People are allowed to use company time and resources for private purposes if there is a real need. The same way that we expect people to step up and do something even if it requires unpaid overtime when there is real need.

So someone spending all day chatting with friends about things is in clear violation of this policy, but someone checking in on a sick mother or to arrange something that requires then to call some place "during office hours", is ok.

Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (2, Informative)

finkployd (12902) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620747)

That has always been my policy as well. If I am expected to work at home beyond normal hours (and when I was a systems programmer for a critical mainframe, boy was that ever the case) then I expect to be able to do personal things at work. I've always been lucky to work in positions where that is accepted (and often encouraged, some people understand that hitting ebay or slashdot occationally helps keep people from burning out).

That said though, even though I happened to know they were not monitoring everyone's computer and phone habits, I still never had any expectation of a "right" to privacy.

Finkployd

 

Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621405)

"90% of employers monitor internet access and 50% monitor phone calls."

Hmm...I know that it has been decided in court that your computer transactions, email and the like can be monitored by the company. However, I do think it is STILL illegal for them to tap your phone conversations or listen into them. I think phone taps come under another established law.

IANAL, but, that's they way I've always understood it from what I'd read in the past. A private employer cannot tap a phone anymore than a neighbor can tap your phone conversation, even if you're using the phone in his house.

Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621603)

But they can track who you call and how long you talk to them. Heck, most phone systems will display that information right on the phone, so it's not like they're hiding the fact.

Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621630)

"But they can track who you call and how long you talk to them. Heck, most phone systems will display that information right on the phone, so it's not like they're hiding the fact."

Ok...I'll grant you that. But, as others have mentioned, what about cell phones and blackberries?

They can't monitor those, and I'd dare say there would be a pretty big uproar if they tried to ban everyone bringing a cell phone in with them to work.

Re:And make sure to keep it to work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621725)

Note that the 50% monitoring cell phone figure isn't saying that 50% of the companies monitor every phone call you make on any phone, just that they monitor phone calls. If you're using a company-paid phone, cell phone, e-mail account, Blackberry, etc., you can bet that they'll be able to track something; your phones have call logs, your e-mail messages have to be sent through a server, etc. I don't think anyone's making the comment that a company can track everything it's employees do, just that a large number of companies keep track of some things employees do.

Being devious just for the sake of circumventing company policy means that your company has a reason not to trust you.

Nope (1, Funny)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620134)

My employer doesn't ban Skype. I can get to the homepage just fine.

Not being allowed to execute any .exe or .zip files is kinda a drag, though...

Re:Nope (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620180)

So...you can't use Skype then. Being able to visit a companies webpage doesn't mean you can use their products. I think if the submitter meant that their webpage had been banned it's likely that's what he would have typed.

Do you suffer from a combination of Aspergers and Down syndrome?

Skype for business. (3, Interesting)

rmadmin (532701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620145)

My employer (which is pretty small, but spread out) currently embraces skype for free voice communications between our many offices and telecommuniting employees. My employer also embraces most OSS software not only for the fact that it is more cost effective in most situations, but our inhouse programers can tweak the crap out of it.

Re:Skype for business. (1)

Azarael (896715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620465)

The situation with my employer is similar to the parent's. Pretty much everyone from the management to developer uses skype to keep track of things when people are offsite, or to just fire off a quick message to someone in another room.

Same here, I wish it weren't. (2, Insightful)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620849)

I wish my employer would use something else. Something standard like SIP/RTP over IPSec. Skype is not open source, and uses a proprietary protocol, with a non-inspectable encryption implementation.

Skype is gratis, not libre.

Re:Same here, I wish it weren't. (1)

6*7 (193752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621214)

Sure, but skype appears to just work. Setting up something like Asterisk (and maybe a VPN) has direct real costs like installing and maintanance. The adminstrators will also be blamed whever anything goes wrong, where skype is untouchable and provides nog guarantees anyway.

Previews. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620146)

" Does Your Employer Ban Skype?"

As soon as I get a job, I'll ask him.

Re:Previews. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620832)

Maybe it would be a good question to ask during your next job interview.

Boss: So, do you have any questions?

Job Seeker: Does your company ban skype?

Boss: Next!

Skype... (1)

Avillia (871800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620157)

It's the Minesweeper of the future!

The explanation we got... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620167)

My employer bans Skype (yes, also singled out by name in the company-wide memo), and the explanation we got is (and, I'm paraphrasing here) "it takes a lot of bandwidth to support all that streaming, and you've already got a phone."

Kinda makes sense from that point of view.

Re:The explanation we got... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620372)

Kinda makes sense from that point of view.


No it doesn't. My employer strted recommending that our offices use skype to talk to each other to cut down on long-distance charges. You're almost certainly using more bandwidth with your analog lines than with skype (especially if you throttle their bandwidth in the router like the cable modem companies do).


Re:The explanation we got... (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621764)

OTOH, if a majority of calls going out of your office are local or within the bounds of whatever telephone service plan your company subscribes to, it might not be worth the bandwidth hit and other associated problems and uncertainties to allow Skype.

No different than banning SSH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620209)

And SSH has a million more uses, including tunneling Skype.

Re:No different than banning SSH (1)

Theatetus (521747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620967)

Hint, hint

I'm unemployed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620215)

you insensitive clod!

controlled data exchange? (1)

milamber3 (173273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620224)

Why is skype targeted? How does that lead to more uncontrolled data exchange than if I start uploading or downloading data with FTP which they probably don't include in the ban.

Re:controlled data exchange? (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620663)

Newsflash: My previous employer definitely stopped FTP at the proxy level. (in Addition to filtering netpages)

Re:controlled data exchange? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620682)

Most sensible admins have configured their firewalls to block ftp also. ftp transmits unencrypted passwords.

Re:controlled data exchange? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621424)

"Most sensible admins have configured their firewalls to block ftp also. ftp transmits unencrypted passwords."

Hmm...sure would make it difficult to download those quarterly Oracle updates we need for our servers.

Certainly this isn't the only application that you need to ftp to sites for updates and upgrades is it?

Re:controlled data exchange? (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621779)

Why is skype targeted? How does that lead to more uncontrolled data exchange than if I start uploading or downloading data with FTP which they probably don't include in the ban.

Because, chances are, far fewer people send those amounts of FTP data on as regular a basis.

Folly (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620238)

Of course the telephone system is itself a p2p application. When you can't reach your correspondent using the telephone, but can reach them using Skype, your work will be impeded. It's a luddite reaction similar to those which one can hypothesize occurred when the PSTN was still a novelty, and
employers reacted strongly against the possibility that their employees might phone home on company time. Of course that was similarly wrong-headed.

Re:Folly (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621795)

Yeah, but what if they're not on Skype or near a phone, but they're on IRC? What if they communicate by smoke signals? The no-smoking office is oppressive and hinders workflow!

Really, though, if enough of your contacts would be using Skype but not telephone or email, chances are that your office would be one of those supporting Skype.

of course they ban that crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620245)

but why do you think so many applications to tunnel/divert traffic exist?

I personally run a VPN back to home and well, no filtering, monitoring, etc.

Of course (4, Insightful)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620260)

Any sensible admin would do that.

Skype eats network traffic, and when you multiply a Skype call by several hundred that's a lot of resources being consumed. Not to mention the impact on productivity and the security risk that is presented by unverified software.

Also, any corporate lawyer will tell you that no company wants to risk legal problems caused by employee misconduct. They certainly don't want to get blindsided because of a Skype call that they have no way of monitoring, tracking, or keeping record of.

Re:Of course (3, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620763)

Well...

As far as eating traffic if you only freeload (no local P2P supernodes) it eats 10-20% less traffic compared to an OpenVPN or IPSEC tunnel with a G729 call with VAD turned on. So if it is only one conversation Skype is more economical. Problem is elsewhere. If there are multiple conversations between people from the same company they traverse the company NAT to the sometimes different supernodes as relays and back. This is what wastes bandwidth.

On top of that Skype especially in a NAT environment is horrible to QoS. If you are obliged to provide a working VOIP environment this is the worst possible protocol. There is no protocol spec, there is no documentation, there is no way to keep state, there is no way to kill specific conversations to keep within bandwidth limits, so on so fourth.

To add to that, in a company environment it is important to have the VOIP integrate cleanly with the company directory, possibly CRM, voicemail, etc. You do not get anything even close with Skype. You get that from any VOIP PBX. Even Asterisk has that on offer. On top of that in many cases you are obliged to keep at least call records for compliance (if not the entire conversations). Nothing like that with Skype.

It is a good toy for the end-user masses. It should be banned in a company. If a company allows Skype this means that the sysadmin has no clue on all of the following counts - security, compliance, telephony, network/QoS.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621102)

If a company allows Skype this means that the sysadmin has no clue on all of the following counts - security, compliance, telephony, network/QoS.


You are an amusing troll. Regarding security & compliance, that is a matter of *WHAT* conversations are recommended to use skype and what conversations are prohibited from using it.
Regarding network/QoS, if you're running a decent network, skype traffic even with quite a few simultaneous calls is pretty minimal. Regarding telephony - yeah, you can't for example call the fire department using skype so you can't take away the employee's phones; but that's a simple matter of teaching them what to use the phone for.

Re:Of course (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621265)

Regarding security & compliance, that is a matter of *WHAT* conversations are recommended to use skype and what conversations are prohibited from using it.

So what exactly are your technical means to check that with Skype? Can you please enlighten us the unfettered and ignorant sysadmins out there?

Regarding network/QoS, if you're running a decent network, skype traffic even with quite a few simultaneous calls is pretty minimal.

Really? Once everyone in a company of 200 employees starts using Skype you get momemts with 24+ streams going across the firewall and back. Ever heard of Erlang and capacity calculations?

Regarding telephony - yeah, you can't for example call the fire department using skype so you can't take away the employee's phones; but that's a simple matter of teaching them what to use the phone for.

So how about the most trivial of trivial tasks in a company - the secretary picking up the boss calls or having a hunt group that circles the support department looking for someone available?

I may be an amusing troll as you say, but I have sat under that bloody sysadmin bridge for a very long time. So I actually know what I am doing and tend to put my money where my mouth is.

If Skype went evil (5, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620277)

then it would be the perfect spyware.

The perfect spyware would punch through firewalls. Skype does just that for its legitimate purposes.

The perfect spyware would encrypt its outgoing communication. Skype does also.

The perfect spyware would be a program with plausible-sounding reasons to connect to unknown computers without notice. Skype has to do just that to take advantage of its supernode system.

The perfect spyware would be hard to reverse engineer. Skype refuses to run under SoftICE (apparently to inhibit development of competing clients).

In our own real world, Skype's been minding its own business. Nobody's lost a machine due to having Skype on it (at least not since the callto: buffer overflow). Nobody's reported suspicious activity in filemon while Skype was running. By normal standards it's trustworthy. But to a business which lives by "you can EXpect what you INspect" Skype is a terrifying unknown.

Re:If Skype went evil-Why No SoftICE? (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620642)

Skype refuses to run under SoftICE

Just how does an application know when it's running under a good emulator?

Re:If Skype went evil-Why No SoftICE? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620940)

Just how does an application know when it's running under a good emulator?

SoftICE isn't really an emulator - it's really an advanced debugger, and carefully written applications can detect that they're being run under a debugger (either by hooking the debug interrupt, scanning Windows memory, instruction timing, or even just making a few deft software calls which end up returning distinct results whether or not it's running on a debugger). A book called "Crackproof your Software" (No Starch Press) details some methods of detecting debuggers.

Now, it would be far harder of Skype was running under say, Bochs and being debugged at the same time since the debugger runs independently of the virtual processor. Timing attacks don't work since the performance registers can also be freely altered, and since there's no real hook that can be grabbed, special instruction sequences won't reveal the presence, either.

compliance (1)

cat6509 (887285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620360)

Unless it comes up as an issue under SOX or HIPPA we are not worried about it, we can't be all our time is taken up fxing the uncompliant parts of our systems/network.

Re:compliance (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621553)

Loggin of IM's is required for some companies legal dept, depending on how you read HIPPA anything where your sending data out of the envirnment where it's not logged for review would qualify as not having accpetable safegaurds on data.

Of course they prohibit it. (3, Insightful)

Joiseybill (788712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620374)

My employer already has a contract for telephone services. My employer can control and audit use - if they need or want to. If confidential information is divulged / threats promulgated/ illegal activity conducted through the existing telephone system, there are clear employment practices and laws to deal with that. Skype is not easily audited. Skype use -may- define the bandwidth provider (the employer) as the telephone service provider; leaving them open for subpeonas and other unwanted attention. Skype users might configure workstations to act as relays, giving away company resources. Right or wrong, they'd rather use POTS.

Firewall Policy might make it useless anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620393)

No need to ban it if you already block it. Many companies have strict firewalls which will block it and many other peer-to-peer applications that connect to unusual outbound ports. Strict firewall policies can be a good thing, and Skype requires opening a lot of random outbound ports, unless you have something like a SOCKS/SSL proxy set up on the gateway.

Definately. (2, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621176)

Firewalls that are "deny by default" are standard at most large corporations. I know it's been the default at every large corporation I work at.

No need to explicitly ban Skype, even without corporate policies, Skype wouldn't be able to get through many firewalls. It's designed to do NAT traversal, not punch through firewalls that block everything and only allow through whatever the proxy machine lets through. (Plus even if Skype could fake the proxy into thinking it was one of the allowed protocols, the latency through the proxy would make Skype practically unusable.)

He might ban this cartoon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620396)

Has this hit the US yet? Any papers showing solidarity with the Danes?

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=danish+cart oons+upset+muslims&btnG=Google+Search&meta= [google.co.uk]

http://www.mediawatchwatch.org.uk/ [mediawatchwatch.org.uk]
http://www.welt.de/ [www.welt.de]
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4670370.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Banned in certain countries (4, Interesting)

matt_wilts (249194) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620405)

My employer bans it, and one of the reasons is that *any* type of VoIP system is banned in some of the countries we do business in (UAE being one of them). If the ISP in the region (effectively a state monopoly) found evidence of VoIP on their links, then they'd cut the links, simple as that. Interestingly, we examined the ToS of the link in UAE & we believe it's actually a criminal offence to use VoIP services on the connection we have.

Re:Banned in certain countries (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620725)

Does this include even encrypted connections?

Re:Banned in certain countries (3, Interesting)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620823)

There is a Huge difference in UAE depending if you have to use Etisalat or one of other ISPs, Etisalat blocks/filters/forbids a lot whereas the others do not. (Note that you cannot choose ISP, it depends on your location and in 99% of cases Etisalat, but I know of atleast 3 types of exceptions). And yes, if you use Etisalat connection against the ToS, it may be criminal offence.

Ban? No! Embrace: yes! (1)

LowneWulf (210110) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620406)

When the boss is on the road, why pay for long distance through the hotel circuit when you can just use the cheap/complimentary Internet to place a Skype call?

I don't see how Skype is any different from ANY other Internet traffic! If you're communicating to the net, you could potentially be sending secrets out. Better Skype than SSH.

Re:Ban? No! Embrace: yes! (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621124)

Well when boss is on the road you give him a softphone extension on the company PBX with all the PBX features, voicemail, calling plan, secretary (most importantly).

Requires some competence in the sysadmin I guess. Especially to make it work reliably and all the time. QoS on low bandwidth links is a pain in the arse.

Alternatively, if you are incompetent you give him Skype which has none of that. And both of you enjoy it until he sees another boss which has a competent sysadmin.

And that is the day when you say bye-bye to your bonus.

On principle (1)

samjam (256347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620455)

I don't use skype on principle; closed source proprietary protocols can go to hell.

I'm happy to interact with systems based on unencumbered open protocols and open source implementations.

This means I like Free World Dialup with the Asterisk gateway, and I like asterisk and its inter-asterisk protocols. Nice.

But skype can go to hell.

Sam

Yes, primarily due to security (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14620539)

Yes, Skype is blocked where I work. Ostensibly, this is primarily because it opens a hole in the firewall, thus making it a security threat.

It might also have something to do with the fact that we're a phone company.

Not ban but discourage (1)

aarku (151823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620562)

And they even have a fab website outlining it [umn.edu] .

Why only Skype? (1)

Nightspark (938372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620630)

While they're at it, they should ban email and telephones too if they want to stop information leaks.

Yes and no (2, Interesting)

onebuttonmouse (733011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620665)

I work in the IT department of a local authority. We don't 'ban' Skype as such, but it is blocked at the firewall just like any other non-essential traffic. Out of several thousand users we have had two or three requests to use Skype, which we've complied with. If we had hundreds of requests we'd have to review the situation, since we obviously have limited bandwidth just like everyone else.

Ban it? We require it. (3, Interesting)

ObjetDart (700355) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620724)

I work for a small software company that is widely distributed; we have developers in 3 different countries and 5 different time zones. We use Skype almost exclusively for all of our voice communication as well as for casual IM'ing. Every employee is required to install Skype and create and publish a Skype ID. I can't even imagine how much time and money we save this way.

Re:Ban it? We require it. (1)

6*7 (193752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621352)

I'm always amazed at the willingness of small companies to "out source" such essential communication mechanisms to parties over which they have no control at all. I can imagine it for small companies without a decent IT "guy". But a software company should know better.

Re:Ban it? We require it. (1)

ObjetDart (700355) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621468)

I'm always amazed at the willingness of small companies to "out source" such essential communication mechanisms to parties over which they have no control at all. I can imagine it for small companies without a decent IT "guy". But a software company should know better.

I don't understand your comment at all. As if we have control over the regular phone system? What exactly should we know better? That we should be paying huge $ to some long distance phone company when a newer, better technology provides a superior service, and for free?

If Skype should fail (which it does sometimes, the connection quality can be bad due to internet connection issues) we simply switch back to the regular phone at that point.

Re:Ban it? We require it. (1)

user account (751465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621734)

Well, some small companies use MSN for same thing - communications between offices... Poor people. Skype atleast works when servers are down, in MSN you just have to wait...

My Employer forces us to use Skype (2, Interesting)

Foggerty (680794) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620768)

Since we have an internet setup with unlimited bandwidth, there's no cost overhead for using Skype. And not to pimp Skype or anything, but we've saved a couple of grand a month on phone bills :-)
(We have offices in three countries, so we make a LOT of overseas calls just within the company.)

Legal implications of Skype's EULA (4, Informative)

shogarth (668598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14620982)

If you read the EULA, you are agreeing to allow Skype access to your bandwidth should your machine become a supernode. Well, employees don't own the business's bandwidth and so are generally not in a position to accept those terms. In our case, they are absolutely not in a position to accept those terms.

Since our users cannot agree to the EULA, our organization has banned Skype. While I dislike the traffic, the deciding issue for administration was that the license was totally inappropriate.

WTF? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621142)

I'm not sure. I'll try it and let you know, because I was getting sick of being employed anyway.

Mobile/cell (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621159)

So are they going to ban mobile or cellular communications also? They aren't under the control of the company, can be used at work, and therefore can be used to leak information. Same goes for SMS, Blackberry (using BWC, NOT BES which obviously ties in to the companies server), MMS, etc.

Heck, take a camera phone picture of a document and sent it to someone using MMS. completely untracable by company audit logs.

Re:Mobile/cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621885)

um, where i work already does ban the use of cellphones/pdas/laptop computers/flash dongles, etc

cellphones are required to be turned off while in the outer area, and must not be turned on once inside the building, only three people have an exception to that rule ( the general manager, the head of sales, and an a tech) no ops are allowed them. pda's, laptops, eta are not permitted on the premises ..

i am not giving the name of the company i work for, for a number of reasions, including that it is in the security industry, so, it would be one hell of a bad idea.

Absolutely (1)

ErnieD (19277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621234)

I am a network security manager at my company, and we do ban Skype as well as most other protocols outside of NTP, HTTP(S), and FTP, for two very simple reasons:

1. Bandwidth. We only have a T1 for our office Internet connection, because that's all we need to run our business. Streaming media crushes it pretty quickly with 100 employees sharing 1.544 MBit.
2. No valid business purpose. This is a business. People are paid to do a job. They don't need Skype, AIM, RealPlayer, etc etc to do that job. We run WebSense (though the filter set is not at all harsh, and we disabled logging and reporting) to filter web traffic for the same reason.

The company you work for has every right to control exactly what what comes in and out of its network. Heck, most companies disallow personal phone calls anyway, so why do you need Skype?

Re:Absolutely (1)

user account (751465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621796)

The company you work for has every right to control exactly what what comes in and out of its network. Heck, most companies disallow personal phone calls anyway, so why do you need Skype? Only for communication. But i guess most offices of big companies around the world dont communicate anyway, so...

Oposite (2, Informative)

ResQuad (243184) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621254)

Over here, in the small software company I work for - we specifically use skype for all intra company communication. We have a number of offsite works and this helps alot.

Short answer: yes (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621307)

I work for a major Australian university. We haven't exactly banned Skype, but we've certainly come very close. Our policy is basically, "If you need to make a call using Skype, you can start up the software, but you must shut down the program completely as soon as the call is over."

Because of our bandwidth -- we have a very large pipe to the Australian network, and most of our desktops have gigabit ethernet -- any desktop running Skype is going to become a supernode. Because of our connection, we get charged a bucketload for data coming through our links. Combine the two, and basically, Skype would be getting us to pay for its traffic, with relatively little benefit to us.

It's a good idea, but the fact that it will grab bandwidth where it can and basically freeload means it would cost us more than it's worth.

All it will take is one user not following that policy for Skype to be banned outright, I believe ...

My Fortune 500 employer bans it, here's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621333)

IT has been instructed to remove/disable Skype software from all computers accessing the corporate network, effective immediately.

IT, in conjunction with our lawyers, has recognized Skype software as a threat to Yoyodyne's intellectual property protection practices and has authorized the removal of the Skype application from Yoyodyne's systems. In addition to application removal, IT will now be monitoring and blocking Skype-related traffic to mitigate the threat to the global Yoyodyne's computer operating environment.

How is Skype a Threat?

Skype enables users to place uncontrolled and unregulated voice calls and chats (Instant Messages) and perform file transfers via the Internet to another end user running the Skype application. Such behavior leaves enterprise organizations open to a variety of liabilities and potential virus infections as well as loss of intellectual property.

Due to Skype's encryption, it is impossible to monitor the contents of communications via this medium. Additionally, recent Skype software exploits have increased the susceptibility of system compromise for those computers with the Skype application installed.

[Lightly editted, names have been changed to protect the innocent.]

Fortune 500 former employer doesn't ban.... (1)

BrianRaker (633638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621341)

but it does block the ports that are used by Skype and other popular VoIP services.

Using skype for business is against the EULA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621411)

Article 2 License and Restrictions

2.1 License. Subject to the terms of this Agreement, Skype hereby grants You a limited, personal, non-commercial, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, non-assignable, free of charge license to download, install and use the Skype Software on Your computer, phone or PDA for the sole purpose of personally using the internet telephony applications provided by Skype and any other applications that may be explicitly provided by Skype. For the avoidance of doubt, You are allowed to use Skype Software at work, in accordance with the terms of this Agreement.

No ban, but strongly advised against. (2, Insightful)

Wanderer1 (47145) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621430)

I also work for a Fortune 500 firm, in the security department. I don't have any particular problem with Skype as a product, but we opted to advise our userbase against it.
The lack of control is the #1 reason, since we can't ensure confidentiality (not that the probability of eavesdropping is worth discussing, but risk management demands a level of due diligence here,) and bandwidth was another concern, not because of the supernode issue, our network would wreck that, but rather because we have enough crap to deal with and didn't need another "free product" to muck up our works with issues of code validation, accountability, confidentiality and service availability.

I don't like the way things have gone, but at least in Corporate America, I don't have enough peers to cover all the bases and management above me is expecting risks to be minimized, and even that is a huge challenge with just the stuff we paid for.

Hey, at least you have IM!

Re:No ban, but strongly advised against. (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621821)

Yours is just one of many posts saying Skype is proprietary, closed source, can't validate code, unaccounable, potentially unreliable, etc.

I can't help thinking about other software such as Microsoft Office which is proprietary, closed source, can't validate code, unreliable (proven with viruses), etc.

How on earth did MS Office (and most of the other software you use) ever get approved? ... or are there different standards?

Also interesting all of the small, nimble companies that have adopted Skype and are realizing huge savings... it looks like somebody's lunch is about to get eaten.

Should it be? (1)

Kanasta (70274) | more than 8 years ago | (#14621782)

Should you be chatting to your friends and family at work?
If so, it shouldn't be banned.

Collaborators? For work? Then use the phone.

Skype Banned (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14621944)

At Oxford University P2P is strictly banned from University servers. Ostensibly the rationale for this is that it prevents outside users from using resources paid for by Oxford. They expressly stipulate that Skype is among the banned applications. I find this bizarre because while I would vastly prefer to use Skype - I can also use google talk or msn. Using msn for voice chats however uses more bandwidth, so instead of distributing the load, they prefer more bandwidth to be used on a matter of principle.

Gee, y'think... (1)

trib (184485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14622097)

This is pretty much situation normal where I work (Australian federal government). P2P of any description is banned for data-control/big brother reasons. It's simply not possible to keep tabs on material transmitted via P2P at this point given our relatively onerous data retention requirements. We have a legislative imperative to retain records of activity for seven years - email, files (paper and electronic), phone call logs, diaries, etc.

Until relatively recently, Google Talk and Skype were functional on the network, but they have now been locked down, along with the rest of the common IM protocols. Stuff like BitTorrent is also banned outright, with no option of it being opened up.

I recently moved out of our IT security policy area for several reasons, not least of which was my inability to reconcile my personal views with the business approach to reasonable (as opposed to totally unchecked) and legal use of IM and P2P tools, as well as what I saw as an unthinking approach to the blocking of websites which had material that could be considered offensive and might be inadvertently accessed by users (for example, we block stuff like deviantart.com and flickr as they are known to contain nude imagery).

Nope (1)

k98sven (324383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14622106)

My employer (a Swedish university) does not ban Skype. (although they don't have any explicit policy permitting it either)

There is, however, a general policy not to abuse computer resources, although I doubt they'd go after anyone for this. They're quite liberal, and someone running Skype off their desktop wouldn't be considered abuse unless it seriously affected their work.

I'd say the experiences are on the opposite side, for instance we have several starving post-docs from foreign countries who routinely use it to talk to their families back home without going broke. That is probably very good for their morale, and therefore their work.
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