Dan York asked for this. Here's the tell-tale sign from tcpdump that the user information is in the clear. Obviously, I used a different username than my own here as obscuring my password was difficult:

10:29:56.656220 IP > P 1:410(409) ack 1 win 64240 <nop,nop,timestamp 415368834 3930262309>
0x0000:  4500 01cd 747d 4000 4506 21e0 0a03 027c  E...t}@.E.!....|
0x0010:  4519 4c36 ab4c 0050 1c0c e369 bc2c c4f5  E.L6.L.P...i.,..
0x0020:  8018 faf0 2fba 0000 0101 080a 18c2 0682  ..../...........
0x0030:  ea43 0b25 4745 5420 2f73 6372 6970 742f  .C.%GET./script/
0x0040:  6765 745f 7265 675f 6b65 792e 706c 3f6e  get_reg_key.pl?n
0x0050:  616d 653d 696e 7365 6375 7265 2d75 7365  ame=insecure-use
0x0060:  7226 7061 7373 3d69 6e73 6563 7572 652d  r&pass=insecure-
0x0070:  7061 7373 776f 7264 2673 6964 3d77 6b53  password&sid=wkS
0x0080:  6870 4363 5933 3962 5426 6275 696c 643d  hpCcY39bT&build=
0x0090:  6953 6b6f 6f74 2d53 3630 2664 6576 6963  iSkoot-S60&devic
0x00a0:  653d 4e4f 4b49 412d 4e39 3526 6361 703d  e=NOKIA-N95&cap=
0x00b0:  6368 6174 3a32 2c70 7573 683a 3226 6e65  chat:2,push:2&ne
0x00c0:  7477 6f72 6b3d 736b 7970 6526 6c61 6e67  twork=skype&lang
0x00d0:  3d45 4e26 7665 7273 696f 6e3d 312e 312e  =EN&version=1.1.
0x00e0:  3539 2661 6374 3d31 2666 7764 6e62 723d  59&act=1&fwdnbr=
0x00f0:  2532 4231 3336 3039 3831 3634 3136 2666  %2B13609816416&f
0x0100:  6972 7374 7573 653d 3230 3038 2d30 342d  irstuse=2008-04-
0x0110:  3236 2d30 302d 3537 2673 6571 3d36 2663  26-00-57&seq=6&c
0x0120:  6c69 643d 556e 6176 6169 6c61 626c 6520  lid=Unavailable.
0x0130:  4854 5450 2f31 2e31 0d0a 486f 7374 3a20  HTTP/1.1..Host:.
0x0140:  6973 6b2d 626f 732d 6170 7031 2e69 736b  isk-bos-app1.isk
0x0150:  6f6f 742e 636f 6d0d 0a41 6363 6570 743a  oot.com..Accept:
0x0160:  2074 6578 742f 706c 6169 6e0d 0a55 7365  .text/plain..Use
0x0170:  722d 4167 656e 743a 2069 536b 6f6f 7420  r-Agent:.iSkoot.
0x0180:  5379 6d62 6961 6e0d 0a58 2d4e 6f6b 6961  Symbian..X-Nokia
0x0190:  2d4d 7573 6963 5368 6f70 2d56 6572 7369  -MusicShop-Versi
0x01a0:  6f6e 3a20 312e 302e 300d 0a58 2d4e 6f6b  on:.1.0.0..X-Nok
0x01b0:  6961 2d4d 7573 6963 5368 6f70 2d42 6561  ia-MusicShop-Bea
0x01c0:  7265 723a 2057 4c41 4e0d 0a0d 0a         rer:.WLAN....

I did some cursory looking around at the data stream again and saw that pretty much everything is being shuttled around in the clear.

For the sake of argument, I looked at a Skype Mobile session. The only piece of information I saw in the clear was some basic information about my handset. Nothing that wouldn't normally be disclosed when accessing a web site.

While it's true that iSkoot is disclosing stuff, let's put this into perspective for a moment. The only realistic way this could be "discovered" is someone gets into a router like I did and dump the traffic, which is possible, but not terribly. The other possibility is if you use iSkoot over WiFi. Someone within sniffing distance could easily pull the unencrypted information out of the air, assuming the WiFi access point was open or the WEP or WPA key was known.

That all being said, there's absolutely no excuse for not encrypting the information with SSL and using HTTP POST instead of HTTP GET.

Various people are thinking that Skype Mobile is basically an unbranded iSkoot, which does the same thing in much the same way. Generally speaking, they seem to do the same thing, but they do it very differently. Packet traces don't lie.

I loaded up iSkoot on my Nokia N95 and accessed the iSkoot service via WiFi. I did this so I could capture what the iSkoot client was sending out so I could see the difference. And oh, boy was it different--different enough that I would think twice about using iSkoot.

First of all, Skype appeared to use a TCP connection on a non-standard port. Fine with me. I looked at the raw packets generated by Skype Mobile and saw an opaque blob--exactly what I expected to see.

iSkoot uses TCP port 80--the same port used by HTTP, the lingua franca of downloading web pages. It sends various things as a series of HTTP GET calls. The scary part of this that your text chat messages--and lots of other interesting information, including your Skype credentials--is being transmitted in the clear. That's right, iSkoot takes all that perfectly good encryption that Skype employs and throws it out the window. For no good reason.

Until iSkoot fixes this problem--and it would be very easy for them to do so (ever hear of SSL?)--I cannot in good conscious recommend using iSkoot.

Update: Issue is resolved in their latest Symbian/S60 client.

Long, long-time followers will know my sordid history with Check Point FireWall-1 and various issues related to network security. I'm all too familiar with how companies can--and do--restrict their users. My employer is no exception. While they have loosened their stance on responsible use of certain applications over the years, one of the fundamental things about the network is that in order to get out to the Internet, you must go through an HTTP proxy.

Enter two new applications I've looked at recently; Yugma and Tungle. Yugma is like WebEx or GoToMeeting. Tungle allows you to more easily schedule meetings across corporate boundaries. Both are exceptionally useful applications.

My acid test for any application is the corporate network. If it can work in our corporate network, chances are, it will work anywhere. Skype is a wonderful example of an application that works everywhere--including on our corporate network. On one hand, I find it scary from a security standpoint, but as a user, I appreciate that it just works.

Some applications fail the HTTP Proxy test. SightSpeed--one of my favorite ways to video chat--simply won't work through the corporate firewall. You can blame SIP for not working through an HTTP proxy, which SightSpeed can't do much about.

Tungle is another one that fails the firewall test, particularly the part that synchronizes free/busy with the Tungle server so your friends can schedule a meeting with you. Other parts of Tungle will work just fine with a regular HTTP proxy. Furthermore, there's no way to even configure proxies into Tungle. The folks at Tungle are aware of these limitations and are addressing them.

Yugma, at least, seems to have some support for HTTP Proxy. It pops up a dialog box after spinning its wheels for a while, realizing it might need one. However, my experience is that I can't make session sharing to work in this configuration.

It's a challenge to work around all the various firewall issues. However, for large-scale corporate adoption of your product, this is a must.

Creative Commons License photo credit: roney

You want to know what I do at Nokia? Support platforms like these guys. Firewalls, intrusion detection, VPNs. Yup, that's what I do.

Today, our little corner of Nokia officially announces the availability of the Nokia IP2450 geared specifically at the IDS market. The Nokia IP2450 has been available as a firewall platform for the past several months. Not a new platform, therefore, but new for the IDS market.

This 2U badboy will push 4 gigabits of data in a passive or inline mode and is expandable to 24 copper or fiber gigabit Ethernet ports. This means the box can sit inline on 11 different segments or monitor 23 segments passively. And yes, you can mix and match inline and passive mode ports.

The IDS on these boxes is provided by Sourcefire, which are the folks behind the popular open-source snort IDS tool. It runs on Nokia's Linux-based IPSO-LX OS. And, of course, it's backed by Nokia's worldwide technical support organization, of which I am a part of.

Don't ask me what these badboy's cost. I work in support, not sales. ;) Seriously, if you're interested, Contact Nokia or a Nokia partner for more details.

When I was 11, which puts me in 6th grade, our school had a couple of Apple ][e's in the library. There wasn't any network connectivity to speak of, but I knew then I had a future in them.

However, this just blows my mind. A sixth-grader in Millbrook, Alabama becomes the network administrator for a small, private school. He puts in a firewall, upgrades PCs to run Windows 2000, and generally tries to make the computing life better for the students and faculty of his school. And he has to justify certain expendetures in front of the school board. Talk about a hardcore lesson in the school of the IT business.

Both my kids have been in front of computers ever since they had enough of an attention span. I don't know that they will have any exceptional aptitude at this, but if they ever want to practice their IT skills, I've got the equipment here at home they can practice on. ;)

The scary thing is, this will likely be the most useful part of Jon Penn's education he will receive. Certainly was for me in college when I was one of a couple of students helping to maintain the main engineering computing lab. Hopefully, he will continue to hone his IT skills and become certified. I bet he'll make a mint at it, too.

Image from Network World