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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Skype must marry SIP

Mahy thinks that eventually Skype will have to be connected to SIP, otherwise Skype users will be let unable to talk to the rest of the world.

"Sure, he 'could' use something else, but that would be economic suicide. When asked how he would get PSTN numbers assigned he said he would use partners who are telecom operators to provide these. These providers are already using SIP or H.323 and have no economic incentive to 'each' build a native-Skype interface on the thin margins that Skype is hoping to garner from its customers."

So, Faultline asked why doesn't Mahy write a connection to Skype, using the APIs that Skype is intending to publish: after all, he has 13 million users? "He doesn't have 13 million 'active' users, far from it, so it is really not worth my time. I would rather spend my energy writing a free client with more functionality that is fully open." So does Skype need to talk to SIP clients one day or can it just talk to the PSTN and then route back out to SIP clients?

"That's missing the point, don't you think? Say a Skype user in India wants to communicate with me in California on a SIP network. He can make a basic call through 2 gateways with international toll charges.

"Its unlikely that I will see his correct caller ID, and dead certain that we can't exchange IM, video, presence status, or do file transfers. A pair of implementations using SIP could do this for free over the public Internet."

Talk then turned to the security that Zennstrom says exists in Skype that doesn't exist in SIP. Mahy thinks the Skype approach is inviting viruses, Zennstrom says this is not possible. According to Zennstrom there is little danger of a call through Skype resulting in a route for a virus because the recipient is told there is a call for him and is asked to call out to meet it.

Mahy tells us that there are rapidly appearing firewalls that are deliberately eliminating use of peer-to-peer networks, including the one Skype sits on, because of security issues.

"Once my machine is infected with a virus, that virus can do lots of rude things with the Skype API. The virus could call a PSTN toll or international service from my account and leave it up for days. The virus could spam call my entire buddy list a few times an hour. The virus could turn my computer into a remote-control microphone. These are the kinds of issues that IT administrators are concerned about. Also, many administrators want to block p2p to prevent liability from the RIAA and similar groups. With at least one product the side effect is no Skype."

© Copyright 2004 Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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