How journalists can protect themselves from Skype eavesdropping

Investigative journalists face yet another obstacle after a policy change by Skype, the internet phone, video and message service.

Many journalists favour Skype IM because it uses encrypted software that cannot be intercepted.

But now the communications giant is able to store chats for up to 30 days, and has confirmed it will pass data on to law enforcement agencies when ‘appropriate’.

The changes also give authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers.

Skype says that changes were made solely to improve user experience and reliability.  But it confirmed it would pass on messages to law enforcement agencies when “appropriate”.

Skype has been a safe haven for terrorists and criminals, and journalists are indirectly affected by the new rules.

However, there are still legitimate ways of preserving your security on Skype:

  1. The journalist and the contact should create new Skype accounts, taking care not to reveal any personal details in their profile.
  2. When communicating with each other, the journalist and the contact should use a proxy server – eg Hotspot Shield, Anonymouse etc. These enable you to use the web without leaving traces of personal information, particularly your computer’s IP address.
  3. Both sides can then chat safely, provided they don’t reveal anything about their identities in their messages.
  4. Use a more secure IM system

The Knight Center is running a webinar on Cybersecurity for journalists

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law

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