skype is still knocking on the corporate doors

I found a Skype article from CNET posted over at InfoSecPlace and nCircle, and as usual with Skype, I have strong opinions about it. It seems Skype is looking to “partner” with some security companies to provide some additional functionality like “provide add-ons to its software to scan text sent through Skype’s chat feature for malicious links.”

Ugh. Let’s build the frustration just a bit more and quote the article again, “Skype has caused headaches for many IT administrators because it can find ways to make a Net connection despite strong firewall controls on corporate networks.”

Ugh, again. First of all, let’s get this popular media misconception out of the way. Skype is not my biggest concern because it can find new ways to make a connection to the Internet. Please. If Skype is not a welcome product in a company, this can be circumvented with policy, software/OS restrictions, and even on the network by blocking the sites that Skype initially contacts for logon. Unless they changed in the last year, you couldn’t necessarily block authenticated users, but you could easily block the logon process and prevent people from using the system. Not only that, but this is not a “new” headache for admins. Malware has been doing this for a long time…

Second, Skype’s problem in the corporate space is not that suspicious links can be sent over the service. Skype’s problem is meeting regulations that require Instant Messaging to be logged and/or loggable. And Skype falls into the grey area between phone usage and digital IMing: digital phone calls. I think there is still debate on whether Skype calls need to be monitored as well. Skype needs to deal with that issue before it should spend any more money trying to enter more than just the SOHO corporate space.

Third, Skype has the annoying habit of making outbound connections…everywhere. Anyone who sometimes (or regularly) looks at outbound connections on firewalls for anything suspicious will know that almost every Skype connection seems suspicious. Skype raises the false positive rate so much that it pretty much kills that sort of monitoring. This doesn’t kill Skype, but it certain is a factor in saying no to it in a corporate network.

Fourth, Skype needs to look into making a standalone product. They might be able to have a closed IM solution for a corporation that is not open to the public, and still provide decoding capabilities only to that company. Another widespread corporate requirement is the IM network not being publicly accessible. Again, this won’t kill Skype, but is another black mark.

Fifth, Andrew at nCircle mentions, rightly, that it also should be centrally managed and configured. Again, if Skype wants to break into anything beyond SOHO markets, they need to provide mangement for the staff. This is important enough to be a possible deal-breaker as well.

Skype is awesome at home and for SOHO use. It saves money, is easy to use, provides good security for the mobile crowd (for now, until the encryption is broken or other MITM attacks might arise), and tends to make employees happy; and one of the things I will thump loudly about: happy users means productive users. I hate having to sport an anti-Skype opinion in the corporate space, but the program itself forces me to be able to take either side, passionately, depending on the corporate environment (i.e. HR, senior management, and regulations).