Skype and Privacy: Why You Should Change How You VoIP Today

By | Jul 30, 2012

Though they wouldn't say it outright, Microsoft more or less confirmed recently they have been keeping instant messages sent through Skype, as well as voicemail left using the service, on their own Linux-based servers. As originally reported by ZDNet, a Microsoft spokesperson has commented on the controversy surrounding Microsoft's purported spying by explaining that they "co-operate with law enforcement agencies as is legally required and technically feasible." Though they didn't come right out and say that they are keeping your data, the fact that they won't deny it and specifically cite law enforcement reasons (legally obtained wiretaps, for instance), means that if you use Skype, chances are Microsoft has some of your information stored on their servers.

So what does this really mean? Well if you are concerned with security, it presents a big problem. While no one would directly accuse Microsoft of stealing data or listening in on your conversations for their own corporate gain, the fact that they are saving your information on a remote server is disquieting, especially when you consider that security breaches at the Redmond giant aren't exactly uncommon. If your business uses Skype in any capacity, and trade secrets, business practices, or any information of a personal nature is shared, this information is now susceptible to hackers.

It may sound far-fetched, but "hacktivist" groups like Anonymous have proven that they will use any means necessary to bring down companies they don't approve of. And considering groups like these lack a unifying goal, pretty much anyone or anything could pop up on their radar and make your business a target.

So what is a midsize business to do? Well, if you have already been using Skype, you may want to consider an alternative VoIP. The only issue that may arise is that the popularity of Skype may make finding another VoIP service provider with the same quality of service and international support difficult. If this is the case, urge employees to refrain from using the instant messaging and voicemail features. Unfortunately, these features cannot be manually disabled in the most recent version of Skype, but creating some strict office guidelines will hopefully help your company avoid any issues.

Although IT professionals tend to think of things like viruses and trojan horses as security risks, it is important to remember that any data we share over the Internet, no matter how secure we might think it is, can be a potential threat. Making sure to protect yourself is the first step in any rigid security scheme, and guarding your information, even from a well-known company like Microsoft, must be a top priority

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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