Skype joint venture in China snags and stores users’ messages

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According to a report released on Wednesday (PDF) by Canadian researchers; the Skype joint-venture in China, TOM-Skype, is recording customer text chats and then censoring them if it contains certain keywords related to topics that the Chinese government deemed objectionable.

Sensitive words include the Falun Gong, Taiwan independence and earthquake. The group also found that there logs of intercepted messages, where if one person types the word “fuck” into the program, it sends the message to a remote location – and it also found that the directories were accessible by using a web browser.

“While Skype specifically stated that censored messages are ‘simply discarded and not displayed or transmitted anywhere,’ this report demonstrates that not only are filtered messages transmitted to and stored on TOM-Skype servers located in China, but also that the servers themselves are configured with such poor security that it is possible to retrieve and decrypt these logs,” according to the report.

Also found were logs of IP addresses, usernames and the content of the text messages which have been filtered, recordings of Skype voice conversations with their names and their phone numbers. However, this is locked away in a directory that has been encrypted and each sub-directory inside of that is also encrypted.

It also found that it has been used for piracy, and it is obvious when you type a search query in Google. We tested it, and it does seem to work.

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