World VoIP NewsUniversity of Carolina reveals potential methods of eavesdropping of Skype VoIP conversations
University of Carolina reveals potential methods of eavesdropping of Skype VoIP conversations
The voice communications over internet phone like Skype may not be as secure as considered: in the security matters working scientists have described how encrypted VoIP conversations can be partially picked up by an eavesdropper.
The process of processing voice data through the internet securely involves encoding, followed by encrypting speech. This synergy of two signal-processing techniques means the volume of the encrypted data packets shows the integral properties of the original speech, a basic vulnerability that allowed a group of Information Technologies researchers and linguists at the University of North Carolina to extract out the actual words and phrases from a VoIP call.
Scientists listened in by splitting the sequence of encrypted VoIP data packets into sequences that are associated with specific phonemes, the short sounds that form the building blocks of speech. Researchers then utilized linguistic rules to turn an array of phonemes into words - for instance, the spoken combination that sounds like "zzdr", which can be heard in the middle of word "eavesdrop" (everybody will hear it clearly, if pronounced loudly) never comes up at the beginning of an English word.
Scientists compare the methods to the way kids learn to understand speech, breaking down the stream of sound forming up the combination from an adult's mouth into words by using linguistic template such as separating out their own name.
Skype or VoIP communications Users should not worry about people listening in on their entire Skype conversation though, as the success of their technique varies widely. The team tested it on 6300 recordings in eight American English dialects and evaluated the performance using unique scoring system METEOR, normally used for comparing machine translation techniques. Only 2.3 per cent scored over 0.5, meaning they are generally considered understandable, though some scores were much higher with near-perfect recovery of full sentences.
Even though their success rate is low, the researchers announced at the recent Symposium on Security and Privacy in Oakland, CA, that no information should be leaking out of a supposedly encrypted communication, and say that future advances in computational linguistics are likely to improve their reconstructions.
One fix might be to change the encoding and encryption schemes used in VoIP software, or to alter the transmission by dropping some packets or padding them with meaningless data - though this could affect call quality.
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