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Can the police trace a skype call?

Posted on 2014-02-21
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Can the police trace a skype call or record it?
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Question by:Ihab
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Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39876217
Skype calls are encrypted: https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA31/does-skype-use-encryption

But, if you're a bit paranoid after the Snowden scandal, you might think the NSA found a way to beat that encryption.

As for tracing a call, that's easy if they tapped into your network. Or if they get a court order that will force Skype to reveal your call history (destinations, not content).

HTH,
Dan
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39876218
They probably can... if they have a reason and possibly a warrant.  There is no technical reason that they couldn't.  All they have to do is go to the Skype servers and record it as it comes thru.
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Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39876227
FWIW, after the Snowden scandal 2 of my clients switched to private messaging, using their own servers.
Much easier to control privacy when you control the server.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39876325
I live in the middle east , without contacting Skype servers , is it possible technically?
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39876352
Yes but I'm pretty sure that the way Skype works is that everything goes thru their servers.  Calls don't go point to point.  Both callers both get and send their voice and video thru the Skype servers.
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Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39876353
Technically, yes.

But it depends on the kind of resources your police is willing to dedicate to intercept your calls.

Anything has a cost, and if the cost of listening in on you is greater than the perceived benefit (or threat), the police/government probably won't bother.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39876383
Technically yes
How it can be done?How they know that this person calls this person ?
Thanks
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Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39876410
Packet tracing.

For ex, during a skype call do a netstat and you will see the IP of the person you are talking to. This means that if the police monitor your traffic they will see that IP too.

If you're technically inclined, see here for an article on how Skype packets are formed.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39876478
Thanks Mr. Dan

But there is unlimited number of possibilities , like the user can change the ip, or makes calls from different isp, let's go in details , can the authorities know that user A calls user B at this time?
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LVL 35

Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39876492
They can tell that a user using IP xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx initiated a call with a user using  IP yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy at the time hh:mm:ss.

After that, it's simply a matter of putting IPs to people. If they're tapped into ISP's, that information is obtainable in seconds.

Bottom line: do not think Skype is secure.
It's convenient, good quality calls, easy to use etc.
Secure from authorities? Don't bet on it.

Dan
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39876506
Thanks Dan so they cant know which Skype user is using this ip, right Dan?
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LVL 35

Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39876533
Not directly, no, since you can login on the same computer/IP, with multiple Skype ID's (just not at the same time).
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39876543
Thanks Mr. Dan
You drive me to ask question after each answer , sorry for my curiosity.
another detail question.
Can the authorities know that this ip that is having this Skype users made Skype call or receive a call?
Thanks
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Assisted Solution

by:Dan Craciun
Dan Craciun earned 999 total points
ID: 39876549
Yes. The Skype packets are easy to recognize.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39876560
This can be done by authorities or ISP?
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Assisted Solution

by:Dan Craciun
Dan Craciun earned 999 total points
ID: 39876568
By anyone having access to your traffic: your ISP, the police, the neighbor's kid etc.
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Accepted Solution

by:
Dave Baldwin earned 501 total points
ID: 39877349
The internet works by making all the connections visible at a technical level.  Anyone who can tap into your internet connection can monitor what you are doing and saying if they have the technical ability.  It may be difficult to decipher the encrypted traffic but the source and destination IP addresses have to be 'in the clear' for the traffic to be routed from one place to another.

Nothing you do on the internet is ever totally private or secret.
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