New York: A severe security flaw in the massively popular Skype video chat service might put Internet users worldwide at risk.
According to a study co-authored by a professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), the serious security breach in the Internet video chat program, which boasts over 500 million users around the globe, means that any evil computer nerd could easily hunt down users' whereabouts, Fox News reports.
Keith Ross, part of an international team of researchers who uncovered the problem, said blackmailers or other cybercrooks could use the flaw to track the travels of a cheating spouse.
Besides, terrorists or criminals could also use the security gap to determine the locations of groups of government officials or employees of a large organization, he said, adding: "Any sophisticated high school or college hacker could easily do this.”
The flaw lets hackers determine the IP address from which a Skype user is logged in. That's a problem because IP addresses are usually specific to Internet users' physical locations. Hackers simply have to know how to grab their targets'' IP addresses from simulated calls that Skype users would never notice, and which leave no trace.
Adrian Asher, Skype's chief information security officer, however, clarified that IP addresses are easily uncovered in most web communications clients.
"Just as with typical Internet communications software, Skype users who are connected may be able to determine each other's IP addresses. Through research and development, we will continue to make advances in this area and improvements to our software," he added.
Skype places a priority on security and safety, he said, insisting: "We value the privacy of our users and are committed to making our products as secure as possible."
First Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 00:09