Skype Security

One issue that should be largely transparent to the Skype user is security: security of the conversation and security that protects personal privacy.

Skype is not only unique for its ability to provide free calls amongst Skype users but also for the level of security it provides during conversations. In particular, Skype’s inherent security features are transparently introduced when the software is installed. However, there are also options to customize individual settings related to privacy as outlined below.

With an ability to traverse firewalls and routers in a highly secure manner, Skype voice calls and Skype chat messages are encrypted to prevent unauthorized access while traversing the Internet. Additional measures have been taken to authenticate users in establishing a call. Users themselves have the ability to limit who may contact them (from anybody on Skype through to only your authorized contacts).

Again file transfers are encrypted; they also pass through any virus detection software you may have on your local PC.

There are further measures a user may take to enhance security such as:

  • Keep your password to yourself
    • Use a “strong”, hard-to-guess password and change it periodically
  • If on a Windows PC, install appropriate security software to install a firewall and to prevent viruses and other malicious attacks
  • Keep your operating system and security software current by performing all updates
    • Microsoft always releases a monthly update on the second Tuesday of the month; if there are urgent updates required, they will deliver them when necessary.
    • While not as frequently as with Windows, Apple’s frequent Mac OS/X updates sometimes address operating system security issues when necessary.
  • Only accept Contact requests from someone you are comfortable with
    • You always have an option to Block a Contact request (or later Block a Contact who becomes undesirable)
    • If you feel there is abuse, you can also check off “Report Abuse” during the Blocking process.
  • Only open files from trusted sources
    • Avoid downloading email attachments from unknown senders or accepting Skype file transfers that you did not expect to receive
  • Never respond to an email requesting your account login information (this applies to any service of which you are a member, such as eBay); that’s phishing.
  • Only enter into your Skype profile, information you are comfortable with making public. For instance, you may decide you are comfortable with entering your country and province/state but not your city or home phone number.
  • Set Skype privacy settings you are comfortable with.
    • In Skype for Windows go to Tools | Options | Privacy
    • In Skype for Mac go to Skype | Preferences | Privacy

Skype’s website contains more detailed information related to security, privacy and online safety. Online safety covers issues such as password protection, identity theft, phishing, protecting your PC, profile content and avoiding spam and viruses. Ultimately Skype is “real time social networking”; as a user you need to decide whom you want to “socially network” with.

The bottom line is that, while Skype provides a high level of protection from many  risks, the individual user also needs to be skeptical about unexpected activity and to establish and implement procedures at his/her local PC to ensure complete security and privacy.

Skype has also provided a more technical outline of their security measures; this independent review of Skype’s encryption provides more background.

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