The NSA saga continues in the Redmond-based empire, this time with a new report aimed at Microsoft’s flagship VoIP platform Skype.A report published by The New York Times and citing people who asked not to be named for obvious reasons, Skype developed its own user-monitoring system before the Microsoft acquisition in October 2011.
It appears that US intelligence agencies have insisted that local software companies must cooperate closer with the NSA, so it asked several top vendors, including Skype, to put together secret teams to develop systems that would provide them with backdoor access to users’ conversations.
The source claims that the NSA wanted “to control the process themselves” and thus skip the process of contacting the parent company and asking for details on select user accounts.
This is how Skype Project Chess was born. “Less than a dozen people inside Skype” have been asked to develop a hidden system that would allow the NSA to access conversations and user details at any time.
Skype officially joined the PRISM program on February 6, 2011, so it’s believed that the backdoor access system was already up and running at that time, more than half a year before the Microsoft acquisition was completed.
It’s not yet confirmed, but it appears that those tools have already been removed from Skype, as part of Microsoft’s network updates over the years. Tipsters, on the other hand, claim that companies involved in this NSA secret plan have kept the monitoring systems to “control the process themselves.”
The interesting thing is that Microsoft is now refusing to comment on this report, even though the company has often denied stories claiming that Skype calls can be wiretapped.
The only thing we got from Microsoft in the PRISM scandal is the public statement rolled out this month and claiming that it never provides user details to the government on a voluntary basis.
“We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.”