Thursday, 8 August 2019

CyberSafe Alert 2019 Edition 6



Why your ‘personal’ calls are not personal anymore

Welcome to CyberSafe alert 2019 edition 6, where we provide timely actionable insights to individuals and SME’s on how to protect themselves online.

This alert covers the story that’s recently been doing the rounds about Skype calls being legally listened to. If you’ve read the CyberSafe book, then this information will not be news to you, and if you followed the advice in the book, then this is one less cyber security issue that you need to worry yourself with.

So what’s the big issue? According to a story from Motherboard,

Microsoft has people that regularly listen in to calls made on Skype in order to improve their machine learning services, especially around translations. Before you get outraged and start calling your lawyer about this flagrant violation of your privacy, it’s important to note that unless you opted out from this in their terms and conditions, you have agreed that this can be done. Skype is not alone in this. Most if not all of the big, commercial VOIP providers will have clauses in their terms and conditions that allow them to monitor your calls.

Although this alert is focused on the VOIP issue with Skype, I think it’s important to note that if you use a service like Cortana, or Alexa, or Siri, these devices (assuming they are switched on) are listening to your every word, whether it’s a valid command or not.

Regular readers of the Cybersafe Alert will know that we’re not just here to scare you into thinking the sky is falling in by telling you what’s going on, but also to give you actionable advice on what to do. So here’s what to do if you’re concerned about the recent revelations about Skype:
  • Check the T&C’s of the VOIP service that you use. If you are concerned about them listening in, then opt-out. If you can’t opt-out, then switch a different service
  • This kind of monitoring is not unique to Skype. Most if not all of the big commercial services will have a similar capability to listen in to your calls. Cybersafe book readers will know about alternatives such as Silent Phone by Silent Circle. If absolute privacy is important to you, then switch to one of these services
  • This is somewhat counterintuitive in terms of what these tools are supposed to offer, but if you use an IoT device such as Cortana, Alexa, or Siri, keep it switched off until you need to use it. These devices by their very nature need to listen to every word you say, in order to react when you give them a recognised command

Following the advice in CyberSafe should go a long way to keeping you safe online. As we like to say at the CyberSafe alert - Don’t Be Scared; Be Prepared
 
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Disclaimer
Every effort has been made to ensure that the content provided in this post is accurate and helpful for our readers. However, this is not an exhaustive treatment of the subjects. No liability is assumed for losses or damages due to the information provided. You are responsible for your own choices, actions, and results.
   

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