Can Skype voice chat be used to send secret messages?

Think how cool and glamorous it would be to be a super spy like James Bond, Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt. You could be traveling the world, ridding it of super villains and meeting beautiful women. It also means getting access to all the cool tech gadgets that no one in the public is supposed to get.

Now there's word that Skype users could, in theory, act out their secret agent fantasies and send secret messages hidden inside regular voice chat calls. New Scientist reports that a research team at the Institute of Telecommunications in Warsaw, Poland, has developed a system called SkypeHide that uses the spaces in between spoken words to transmit data.

As it turns out, when you use Skype and there are pauses between spoken words, there's not an absence of data. When speech is transmitted on Skype, it uses 130-bit long data packets. However, Skype still sends 70-bit long data packets even when no one is speaking.

The Institute of Telecommunications team have created SkypeHide as a way to use those 70-bit packages to send data, which could be text, audio or even video, at a rate of 1 KB per second. Team member Wojciech Mazurczyk states that their SkypeHide system can access the hidden data, saying, "The secret data is indistinguishable from silence-period traffic, so detection of SkypeHide is very difficult."

While SkypeHide has yet to be released, the team plans to show off their system in June at a steganography conference in Montpellier, France. In the meantime, we suspect that lots of Skype users are getting their new "secret decoder ring" messages ready to transmit.

Source: New Scientist | Classified image via Shutterstock

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14 Comments

all Skype voice calls are secret, they have awesome encryption, so much so that i recall some countries banning Skype since the governments said it was too secure to crack.

Yes, Estonians didn't care much about ensuring compliance to any foreign law. That was before Microsoft bought it, after that Microsoft announced that they complies with all required laws, they even made special version for china which uses their servers.

It's a great concept based on fact regarding the data stream. Would like to hear more combined with a "proof of concept" demonstration.

"The secret data is indistinguishable from silence-period traffic, so detection of SkypeHide is very difficult."
There's no such thing as indistinguishable data, so that BS claim tells me all I need to know about them. Before some idiot decides to answer: yes, even TOR developers will tell you exactly what I wrote: "There's no such thing as indistinguishable data."

In other news, Skype also connects you directly to the other user you have added. That means good and bad things I guess. If you're worried about privacy from Microsoft, have no fear because messages/data doesn't go through their servers. On the other hand, anybody you have added can see your IP easily.

ingramator said,
Unfortunately this is just vaporware, there is absolutely no way to get hold of this so called "software".

Per article:
While SkypeHide has yet to be released, the team plans to show off their system in June at a steganography conference in Montpellier, France

ingramator said,
Yes I know, it is still vapourware- all talk no software!

It was just announced this does not qualify as true vaporware yet give it a year

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