Skype, the FBI, and MegaUpload

In the aftermath of the MegaUpload seizures we’ll hopefully learn more about how the FBI gained access to Skype transcripts. As reported by CNet:

The FBI cites alleged conversations between DotCom and his top lieutenants, including e-mail and Skype instant-messaging logs. Some of the records go back nearly five years, to MegaUpload’s earliest days as a cyberlocker service–even though Skype says “IM history messages will be stored for a maximum of 30 days” and the criminal investigation didn’t begin until a few months ago.

Sources told CNET yesterday that Skype, the Internet phone service now owned by Microsoft, was not asked by the feds to turn over information and was not served with legal process.

The U.S. Department of Justice told CNET that it obtained a judge’s approval before securing the correspondence, which wouldn’t have been necessary in the case of an informant. “Electronic evidence was obtained though search warrants, which are reviewed and approved by a U.S. court,” a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said.

Skype saves chat records with contacts in a directory on the local hard drive, which could be accessed by FBI-planted spyware.

While it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if spyware was used, it would be interesting to see more details of this come to public light. Moreover, was the spyware/electronic access authorization acquired in the US and then the malware implanted on computers in foreign jurisdictions, or did it target local (American) computers? If it was implanted on foreign computers, were local authorities aware of what was going on and did they have to give their approval?

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