Skype and other services that offer voice conversations over the Internet are vulnerable to eavesdropping, even though they use both encoding and encryption, say University of North Carolina researchers.
Working with linguistic experts, the University of North Carolina researchers were able to reconstruct conversations by measuring the data packet size of messages sent electronically across a network and then applying linguistic rules of human speech to the packets. They were able to decipher individual components of speech, put them together, and were at times able to understand conversations.
The process is described as being similar to how infants learn to communicate, by associating certain words they hear over and over with known results. The researchers essentially duplicated this process to recreate phone conversations. However, people who use such services should not worry that someone is listening in because the results achieved by the researchers would require eavesdroppers to have a lot of time, knowledge, and resources.
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