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PDN Skype policy

Introduction

Due to recent changes to the Skype EULA (End User License Agreement), the recent acquisition by eBay and the demand for this Peer to Peer telephony software, we will now allow the Skype Peer to Peer Telephony software to be run under certain limited conditions.

Skype (www.skype.com) is a free application that facilitates free telephone calls through the use of an Internet connection. It is not a true VOIP (Voice over IP) solution and should not be treated as such.

Calls made using the system are routed through Supernodes, which can be ordinary computers with Skype installed. Computers on fast and well connected Internet feeds, combined with certain firewall restrictions, are more likely to automatically become Supernodes and route a considerable amount of traffic.

Also when becoming a supernode, computers obtain a large number of concurrent connections almost instantaneously and the debilitating effect this can have on the local machine's IP stack and our firewalls could cause service-affecting issues.

We will allow Skype to be installed and used if the following conditions are met:

All users wishing to use Skype have a valid academic reason to do so, and have their request agreed by the IT team. E-mail IT Support for information.

The latest available Skype version is installed.

Skype is downloaded from skype.com/download/.

Skype is not loaded at startup and is only running whilst the user is at the computer to receive or make calls.

Should Skype enable a facility to decline to be a Supernode, this is enabled immediately.

Should an excessive amount of bandwidth be used by a computer with Skype installed, the user must remove the software immediately at our request and if the user is not available we will disconnect the computer ourselves.

Should the JANET Acceptable Use Policy subsequently change to explicitly prohibit Skype then the user must remove the software immediately at our request.

The user has read this policy in its entirety and fully understands the security implications and risks to privacy.

The current End-User Licence Agreement for Skype is the January 2011 revision. The original clause that grants Skype permission to install and use third-party software on computers running Skype has now been removed.

Supernodes

The End-User License Agreement, EULA, previous to the current version stated: "In order to receive the benefits provided by the Skype Software, you hereby grant permission for the Skype Software to utilise the processor and bandwidth of your computer for the limited purpose of facilitating the communication between you and other Skype Software users."

The clarity of this statement is questionable and as a result the EULA has been changed to its current form: "In order to receive the benefits provided by the Skype Software, you hereby grant permission for the Skype Software to utilize the processor and bandwidth of your computer for the limited purpose of facilitating the communication between Skype Software users."

Skype have responded to our queries to acknowledge that the Supernode feature is integral to the operation of the software. It is worth knowing that if your computer is a Supernode you are likely to by routing a lot of other people's calls/conversations. Conversely if your computer is not a Supernode and neither is the computer of the person you are conversing with, then your calls/conversations will be routed through someone else's computer at any location on the Internet. Although the calls are encrypted, we are unsure at this point how strong this is and if anyone would be able to eavesdrop easily.

As the application could carry traffic from users outside the JANET network between JANET nodes and out of the JANET network again, it therefore appears to be in breach of the JANET Acceptable Use Policy.

However there are several references on the UKERNA site to the contrary:

  • "Usage of software VoIP clients. The issue of using free VoIP clients such as SKYPE was discussed, the main point of concern being the way in which SKYPE may use host PCs as a repeater. Although this is not ideal - the use of the technology ultimately lies with local usage policies - the use of SKYPE on JANET is not against any acceptable usage policy."
  • "If an individual is involved with more than one of these groups, then they may have to install and use many software tools in order to join or work with each community. Tools such as Microsoft Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Skype, IRC, VNC, Blogs, and so on are all in use by different research and project groups."