Skype set up secret project to enable government snooping

SkypeBy IAN ALLEN | |
Skype, the world-famous company that provides Internet-based communications between registered users, set up a secret project five years ago to facilitate persistent requests by government agencies to listen in on users’ phone calls. The New York Times revealed the secret project, codenamed Project CHESS, on Wednesday, citing individuals with inside knowledge of the program, who asked to remain anonymous so as “to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies”. For many years, it was believed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies had found it impossible to intercept Skype’s instant messaging and voice traffic. This was because, like other voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) communications providers, Skype uses technology that converts audio signals to data, and transports them through most of the Internet infrastructure in binary, rather than audio, format. Furthermore, Skype uses very complex algorithms to encrypt its customers’ communications. The company had repeatedly pointed to the technical complexities of VOIP communications in arguing that it was often technically impossible to facilitate communications interception requests by government authorities. In 2009, rumors began to circulate in the cybersecurity community that Skype’s VOIP encryption system had been cracked. It now seems that, around that time, the company, which was then still owned by eBay, was already negotiating with the United States government in order to help intelligence agencies gain access to its users’ communications. The Times said that Skype’s Project CHESS, which was a direct outcome of these negotiations, involved “fewer than a dozen people” employed by the company. Documents provided to Britain’s Guardian newspaper by American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that Skype formalized its interception interface with the NSA in February of 2011, several months before it was acquired by Microsoft. But The Times revelation appears to show that the operational interface between Skype and the NSA began several years earlier, through Project CHESS. The paper said it contacted Microsoft executives, who were “no longer willing to affirm” past claims made by Skype that their users’ communications were shielded from interception by third parties.

7 Responses to Skype set up secret project to enable government snooping

  1. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Given Mr Snowden is so keen to reveal all to the world in order to suit the dictates of his master(s) as well as sooth his troubled conscience – perhaps he could apply his boundless energy to achieving something worthwhile such as:

    “Q” Who (alledgedly) murdered Gareth Williams in the U.K in 2010 and what nationality were they ?

    (Or maybe you can’t enlighten us all – because it’s not part of your ‘script’ and your controllers wouldn’t see any political capital in it ? )

  2. Jacob says:

    Who are the Snowden controllers in the first place?

  3. TFH says:

    But Peter that is easy to explain, as reported (or linked to from) this site, Mr. Gareth had this hobby or fetish if you like to lock himself into nylon bags and then try to set himself free, on this occasion he outmaneuvered himself and was killed by his own outsmarting. Really simple and believable.

  4. amanavoices says:

    If this is true I will boycott Skype, this is not good manner, it is not American!
    Sofian Zakkout, Director of AMANA, the American Muslim Association of North America

  5. Pete says:


    Boycotting Skype will have little effect when metadata is collected on internet, cellphone and landline use anyway. Furthermore not using any communications won’t prevent mass CCTV surveillance.

    We are all potentially under electronic surveillance (I certainly am). The only difference is the extent we are aware of it.


  6. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Right now Jacob – Snowdens controllers are the Russian S.V.R – Downtown Moscow.

    Given the information Snowden has gathered, it is patently obvious he is in this for personal financial gain.

    This is every Western Intelligence agencies worst nightmare come true. This event is almost (excepting the Cambridge Five) without historical precedence.

    It really dosen’t get much worse than this..

    When U.S Senator Bill Nelson recently said ” I’ve always thought this was a treasonous act”, he certainly wasn’t kidding.

    Incidentally, they say Snowden is considering moveing to Cuba or South America. The only reason he will go to Cuba is not to live but because the Russian jet will have to uplift fuel there before proceeding South !! (Then again this might be a red herring fed to us all and he may well be headed anywhere from North Korea to the Kuril Islands. His final destination will be chosen not by Edward but rather – by his Masters and only when they are sure they have all the information he holds and then he will be of no further use to them.)

  7. TFH says:

    Either Edward Snowden a) came across some information he felt instinctively was his moral duty to inform human kind about, b) was made to feel he had moral duties to inform about, c) neither of these and your guess is as good as the next one.

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