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July 31, 2016

Skype Not Confirmed Secure for Attorney-Client Communications

John Austin

In our fast-paced age of technology, more attorneys turn to cloud-based means of communicating with clients. One such technology is Skype. However, is “skyping” a secure form of communicating confidential attorney-client information? According to Microsoft, which now owns Skype, the answer is unclear, mostly because it refuses to answer.

At first, Skype worked on peer-to-peer technology, which essentially allowed a desktop to communicate more or less directly with the computer on the other end of the conversation. However, it did not employ encryption between the two computers, allowing such communications to be intercepted and revealed. In 2013, The Guardian newspaper reported, based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, that the NSA had dramatically increased its ability to collect data from Skype several months after the Microsoft acquisition.

After acquiring Skype, Microsoft has moved Skype to a “cloud” platform but has not indicated whether it has (or will have) encryption. As of this writing, Microsoft still has not confirmed encryption. Until such encryption is confirmed, attorneys should presume that communications with clients on Skype is akin to talking to clients in a coffeehouse.

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John Austin

Principal at John Austin Law Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina