Ethiopia just recently banned its citizens from using Skype and any other form of Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

The Ethiopian government was concerned about the country’s national security and has therefore threatened a 15-year prison statement to anyone who attempts to use Skype. Sounds excessive, right? Even though this law may be a bit on the extreme side, there are security risks that users should be aware of before using the Skype software.

The highest concern for Skype users is in locations where citizens have an authoritarian government. Places like Ethiopia already had strict laws implemented on the written press. Now, with citizens already having limited Internet access, the government has even more control of the communication of its citizens. There have been reports that individuals have had unauthorized access to personal accounts and some text conversations have been sifted through. This is a major breach in Skype security that should be kept in mind when using this system. Although this is a rare occurrence, confidential information should be kept to a more secure site.

Almost all major websites that contain personal information have what is called an SSL connection. This stands for Secure Sockets Layer. This provides a website with an additional layer of protection from potential hackers. Skype, although encrypted, does not have a secure SSL connection. This is a problem when passing along downloaded information to other individuals. For example, there have been problems in China where other sites have posed as the true Skype site and have provided the users with compromised versions of the software. It is very important to pay attention now to where you are getting your downloads from so that you do not run into problems later.

Another user vulnerability is that Skype identifies users by using their name instead of unique IDs. This can prove to be a major vulnerability for individuals because people can easily impersonate someone else by using the same name. Then, they can get valuable information from an individual because of this connection. Unless an individual has some other way of communicating, finding someone on Skype could be a difficult task.

Today, mainly small to medium-sized businesses use Skype to cut cost. Larger companies are connected to a secure network and use companies like Face to Face Live for their Video Conferencing system. Household consumers are usually not the ones targeted when it comes to hacking into someone’s personal information. However, there is still need to err on the side of caution when using Skype. It is a reliable network, and employees are working on improving it. There are always adjustments to be made in the world of technology, and Skype is on its way to becoming a more trustworthy system.

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