Skype Alternatives

Skype is a telecommunications application software product that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, mobile devices, the Xbox One console, and smartwatches via the Internet and to regular telephones. It is one of the more popular methods of making voice calls (emulating telephones) over the Internet.

Microsoft purchased Skype from a privately-owned company in May 2011 for $8.5 billion. At the time, Skype was very popular, primarily because of its high audio quality and ease of use. Skype also was believed to be very secure at the time. While never officially stated, the advertising for Skype hinted that conversations between two Skype users (not traveling over public telephone lines) could not be wiretapped in its distributed, peer-to-peer network.

In the years since the acquisition, the ease of use in Skype has gone away, replaced by a very awkward user interface that is obviously designed for corporate use. The audio quality remains rather good. The original peer-to-peer network has been replaced with a more-or-less standard network that uses Microsoft servers to establish connections. The new network appears to be less secure than the previous peer-to-peer implementation.

Continue reading

NSA says Searches of Americans’ Data without a Warrant Spiked in 2017

Do you feel like someone is spying on you? Your hunch might be correct. An article by Zack Whittaker in the ZDnet web site says, “The agency collected a staggering 534 million domestic phone records last year, up threefold on the year earlier.”

The article also states, “According to the figures [released on Friday], 7,512 Americans had their calls and messages searched without a warrant, up by 42 percent on the year prior” and “… it also sweeps up large amounts of data on Americans, who are constitutionally protected from warrantless surveillance.”

Continue reading

Perhaps the Most Secure “Burner Phone” of All?

Politicians, business executives, movie stars, professional athletes, and anyone else concerned with their personal privacy might want to have a second cell phone in addition to their primary phone. The second cell phone often is called a “burner phone.” It can be used to hide sensitive information from news reporters, overseas hackers, government agencies, business competitors, law enforcement personnel, Border Patrol, or from a curious spouse!

See my earlier article, Michael Cohen had 16 Cell Phones Seized by the FBI, at http://bit.ly/2rbKx3l for one person’s example. See http://bit.ly/2jjfWh4 for hundreds of other articles about “burner phones.” However, I will tell you about what I consider to be the best burner phone of all as well as one of the cheapest, and I don’t think it is mentioned in any of the other articles.

My candidate as the best burner phone off all is the Apple iPod touch. “Hey, wait a minute!” you exclaim. “That’s not even a phone!”

Continue reading

Michael Cohen had 16 Cell Phones Seized by the FBI

I’m jealous! Security experts often advise politicians, business executives, movie stars, professional athletes, and others to always have a second cell phone in addition to their primary phone. The second phone, sometimes called “a burner phone,” should receive little use. The owner is advised to use it only when he or she might want to hide something from law enforcement personnel or Border Patrol or perhaps is in danger of having news reporters or business competitors snooping through the person’s affairs. In fact, another good use might be to hide something from a curious spouse!

If the owner’s primary phone is later examined by someone else, the text messages, installed apps, and recent phone call information contained within the burner phone will not be found. Hiding a second phone that is used only for highly-sensitive purposes can be a big help when it comes to keeping secrets.

However, we may have a new record in burner phones! Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, reportedly had as many as 16 cell phones when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room!

Continue reading

Without Encryption, It’s So Easy for Anyone to Eavesdrop on Your Phone Calls

An interesting article by Dennis Peng can be found in the Ooma Blog. The article talks mostly about hackers and governments listening to your cell phone and wired telephone calls. Amongst other things, the article states, “There is a backdoor built into every cell phone call. It can be accessed by intelligence agencies, hackers, or anyone with your telephone number.”

As to old-fashioned wired telephones, Peng writes, “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications,” reports the Washington Post.

The article may be found at: http://bit.ly/2I7DY8W.

How to Fight Mass Surveillance even though Congress just Reauthorized It

Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is also the Chief Technical Officer at IBM Resilient, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, and a board member of EFF. Indeed, he is one of the leading experts in the field of computer security. He recently published an article in The Washington Post that describes the problems and the risks recently created when President Trump signed the renewal of Section 702, making domestic mass surveillance a permanent part of U.S. law. You can read his article at: http://wapo.st/2CnE7SD.

Why Do You Have Two Telephone Numbers? Use an Amazon Echo Instead.

According to a recently published U.S. Health Department report at http://bit.ly/2icwvuw, 50.8 percent of American homes don’t have a landline telephone. Instead, the residents use a cellphone as their only phone or use a computerized VoIP phone or other, alternative telephone device. The number of landlines in homes has declined in recent years and apparently will continue to fall. There’s simply no need to have both an old-fashioned wired home phone and a cellphone. Having duplicate phones is unnecessary and expensive.

Perhaps even worse is the difficulty of anyone trying to call you when you have two or more telephone numbers. If they know you well, perhaps they know to call one number during certain hours of the day and a different number at other times. If they don’t reach you on the first number (and they should be able to do so), the caller then has to know to call a second number.

I have been using a cell phone as my only telephone number for several years. However, I recently slid backwards: I added a second “phone” in my home. Admittedly, it is not a normal telephone. I use it mostly for outgoing calls, so my callers never need to be concerned with which number is needed to call me. The new “phone” provides high-quality audio, a built-in speakerphone, and, if appropriate hardware is used on both ends of the conversation, video calling. The new device also performs many other functions besides making telephone calls. Best of all, there is no need for telephone wires connected to the house nor for a monthly bill from the local telephone company. In fact, my new device provides free calls after the hardware has been purchased.

Continue reading