A Russian 'freelance researcher' says he has reverse engineered much of Skype's code and intends to make the project open source.
Efim Bushmanov has posted binaries of his work so far, as well as the original source code, on his blog (opens in new tab) saying he is looking for 'friends' to complete the project.
Bushmanov claims to have done most of the hard work unravelling the code for the rc4 client and the compression algorithms which us AES and RSA encryption on older iterations of the VoiP and instant-messaging package up to version 1.4.
Reverse engineering commercial code is, of course, a minefield of cross-border inconsistencies, impenetrable patent laws and complex licensing. But the one thing that is crystal clear is that calling something open source doesn't make it open source.
On the other hand, licensing clauses built into end user agreements which forbid reverse engineering are illegal in some countries, and it's almost impossible to prove whether a hacker has 'digitally signed' such an EULA in any case.
Apart from the probability that an open source variant based on Skype's architecture will syphon cash out of the company's coffers, there's also a very real fear that people with less altruistic intent will use code to undermince Skype's security.
Asked to comment on the posting a Skype spokesperson told thinq_ “This unauthorised use of our application for malicious activities like spamming/phishing infringes on Skype's intellectual property. We are taking all necessary steps to prevent/defeat nefarious attempts to subvert Skype's experience. Skype takes its users' safety and security seriously and we work tirelessly to ensure each individual has the best possible experience."
One thing's for sure; even if Skype is more worried about how a reverse engineered version of its software will be used than the fact that its source code being hijacked and is freely floating around on Github and The Pirate Bay, once Microsoft has had its acquisition of the company approved and Skype becomes part of the Redmond Massive, the software giant is sure to bring its full legal weight into the ring.