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Skype and security

Grabbed a nice little gizmo this week, the MVox M100, a Skype and SIP-compatible voice-over-the-Internet speakerphone that's powered solely by a USB connection.

It's nice because it works on most Apple Macs and PCs without drivers. I've hooked it into Skype (opens in new tab), as well as the appropriately-named VOIPcheap (opens in new tab) service which supports free outgoing calls to UK and selected European landline numbers.

This started me looking at the security of the myriad VOIP services now being launched by everyone and their granny, including several broadband Internet service providers, at the moment.

No, I'm not talking about the (strong) possibility that VOIP calls can be intercepted by persons unknown, but the effect that installing the VOIP software on your PC will have.

My old pal Guy Kewney (opens in new tab) says that Skype's free call quality is going down the tubes because more and more Skype users have either firewall software on their PCs, or a firewall-enabled router plugged into their broadband connection.

This prevents the Skype software acting as a supernode, and able act as a waystation for other Skype calls.

I'm not going to bore you with the technical issues involved (you can see them here) (opens in new tab) but suffice it to say he's right.

The nett result is that PC-to-PC VOIP services that use a supernode approach like Skype are going to get worse. This isn't good. It also means that commercial VOIP service operators - and ISPs that offer

such services - have to be careful to avoid going down the same route as Skype.

I'll say no more, other than the fact that VOIP supernodes are not that secure. If you use Skype, you can either become a supernode and enjoy excellent voice quality, or not be a supernode...