eBay put Skype on iPhone 'to boost price of NSA backdoor'
'Judas Phone' reaps $bns for 'man-at-both-ends' attack
April Fool Skype was pushed onto Apple's iPhone at the instigation of the VoIP app's corporate owner eBay, the Reg can exclusively reveal - in order to reap huge sums from government listening agencies interested in spying on Jesus-mobe-toting terrorists.
The revelations come from a disgruntled eBay insider familiar with the matter, known to Reg handlers only by the randomly-assigned codename "Click Jezebel". This individual, already sickened by years spent living off the proceeds of artificially hyped repeat sales of bug-infested rugs and defective lava lamps, found the latest attempt to wring value from Skype a step too far.
According to this source, cynical eBay profiteers have long been intent on squeezing some revenue out of Skype, but the customer base has stubbornly resisted monetisation. It's also well known that Skype is considered extremely difficult to listen in on by plods, spooks and so on - partly because of its peer-to-peer nature, which routes calls unpredictably, and partly because of its obscure encryption. The Reg has reported before on the difficulties faced by Italian and German police - not to mention Britain's GCHQ - in eavesdropping on Skype calls.
When news broke recently that America's NSA was offering "billions" to any company which could offer a bona-fide solution for Skype eavesdropping, unscrupulous tat-bazaar overlords saw their chance at last. Secret top-level negotiations were opened with the NSA: these were time-consuming as they had to be carried out via courier-delivered, one-time-pad encrypted hardcopy letters owing to understandable paranoia on both sides.
The idea was that eBay would order Skype engineers to develop a Skype update which would cause user clients to relay details of every call or chat to secretly-established NSA "black servers", located in China to provide plausible deniability. In the event of the NSA wishing to listen in on a given call, the clients at either terminus - in addition to sending the normal Skype encrypted traffic to each other - would also send the voice or text to the spooks.
Within the NSA the ploy is known as the "man-at-each-end" attack, according to our source. Company engineers prefer the term "p2p2pwn", apparently.
It appears that negotiations initially proceeded well, with payment arrangements swiftly hammered out. Each time the NSA Skype backdoor is used, US black-budget funds will be used to purchase an agreed, substantial amount of tat on eBay, causing clean untraceable revenue to flow into the online gumble-bazaar's coffers. The purchases will then normally be put straight back up for re-auction, maximising the payment to eBay and minimising losses to the US taxpayer.
But at the final stages a sticking point emerged. It's well known that many targets of interest to the NSA dislike platforms which have long been able to run Skype, such as Windows Mobile phones. These individuals - Taliban warlords, Afghan politicians, celebrities, ruthless criminal biz-kingpin supervillains etc. - typically favour the added bling factor of Apple's Jesus Phone.
"They said to us, get backdoored-up Skype on the iPhone, we'll pay full price," according to our person familiar with the matter. "Otherwise we knock off $2bn."
Thus Skype at once entered into negotiations with Apple, while telco objections to free VoIP on the iPhone were stifled behind the scenes by NSA arm-twisting. This part of the plan, according to our informant, was known as "Project Judas Phone", and has now reached fruition.
Our source, possibly exposed after the Reg accounts department called him at work to verify an expense-account lunch claim from one of our scribes, was forced to flee his job and home last week. He is now thought to be in hiding, or perhaps in a secret prison overseas somewhere.
Attempts to contact eBay's Swiss alpine mountaintop HQ for comment have so far proved fruitless. We also tried to reach the NSA, but negotiating a secure comms protocol has so far proved impossible. ®
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