How Skype’s Chat Feature Put Me in the Dog House

How Skype’s simultaneous publication of chat conversations can be a security risk.

Here’s a little story about how this little smiley face can get you in trouble.

I was planning a demonstration of Skype’s new video chat features in our boardroom at work today for a few coworkers. While setting set up, I turned on the Skype Me feature (this icon ) so I could show my coworkers how you can let other Skype users know that you’re interested in chatting. In the few minutes leading up to my presentation, a couple Skype users contacted me, so I started chatting with them.

Unbeknownst to me, at very same time my wife was at home using one of my computers with Skype running in the background.  While my wife tried to look up movie times for the two of us , Skype kept displaying my chat messages with two mystery women! Here is the juicier of the two chat sessions she saw:

As you can see, my wife interrupted my chat session with “indiana_girl” from Russia. Then she called me to get to the bottom of this. Coincidentally, seconds after my 1:04:39 chat message to indiana_girl, I undocked my laptop, walked to the other end of our boardroom table, re-docked my laptop, and started my Skype video demo. I noticed my wife was calling while setting my my demo but didn’t take her call, so she had a good 30 minutes to stew about what the heck I was doing on Skype while supposedly “at work.”

Luckily for me, I had a roomful of coworkers who could vouch for me. We all found it more than a little amusing once we figured out what happened. Now my wife is only appalled by my typos. Sorry, indiana_girl. It’s over between us, and it never even started.

Lesson learned: Cheaters beware! But seriously, if you use Skype on more than one computer for any reason, you may be publishing your conversations simultaneously to each computer whenever you use the service if you don’t make a point of shutting off Skype when you’re done. Keep that in mind the next time you use Skype from a shared computer at a coffee house, cyber cafe, or computer lab.

We’ll review Video Skype in a future post. Here, here, and here are some sources offering reviews.