Skype Protocol Hacked

Reports are coming in from Asia that the Skype protocol has been hacked. If accurate, this means that users can access the Skype VOIP network without using the Skype client – calls could be made through third party software directly to and from Skype users. A Skype-compatible client may be available by the end of July.

The reports are also suggesting that the new software will not support Skype’s super node architecture, meaning that users will not have the resource drain that often comes with running Skype. While this is great for the users of the hack, it could destabilize, or at least slow down, the entire Skype network.

I spoke to a Skype spokesperson this evening about the story. Her comment was “We have not had time to evaluate or confirm the story, and so do not yet have any comment.” Their instincts will tell them to take legal action (which may not have any effect since the company claiming to have done this is in China). But what they should do is use this as an opportunity to open up the protocol and allow third party developers to build Skype compatible applications (under Skype’s terms).

Update: Skype PR sent the following statement over to me at 11 AM PST on 7/14/06:

Skype is aware of the claim made by a small group of Chinese engineers that they have reverse engineered Skype software. We have no evidence to suggest that this is true. Even if it was possible to do this, the software code would lack the feature set and reliability of Skype which is enjoyed by over 100m users today. Moreover, no amount of reverse engineering would threaten Skype’s cryptographic security or integrity

Screen shot of the third party client: