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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Apple's FaceTime Encryption Raises Security Concerns For Video Chatters

When Apple introduced FaceTime—an iPhone-based video chat service—in June 2010, it wasn't long before people raised questions about security. After all, FaceTime only works over wifi and, while most wireless systems are properly encrypted, many are not. How would Apple ensure private browsing, VOIP calling and video chatting?

Apple has stated that a best practice for any WiFi use is to ensure that WiFi encryption is being used with the access point (preferably WPA2) – accordingly, if enabled, then FaceTime is secured using this encryption.. If your WiFi uses a different type of security—namely the much maligned WEP— or, as in the case with much of public WiFi, no security, your Facetime calls may be open to hacking or theft.

This issue was raised in two recent cases. Aldo Cortesi, a Kiwi security consultant famous for his work on the class-action lawsuit against gaming network OpenFeint earlier this year, released a report this week calling several of Apple's security protocols into question. His concerns stem from the way Apple devices access game and app servers. His report indicates that over 100 million users could be vulnerable to internet spies, and recommends some kind of identity protection.

Tech blog ZDNet also recently reported on a Health and Human Services update that requires all healthcare providers looking for government funds to be HIPAA compliant. In order to gain compliance, health care providers must update wifi security if they plan to use FaceTime. The HIPAA statute declares that, while WPA and WPA Personal may be acceptable depending on the circumstances, WEP security is not allowed.

These questions as to current security have caused some to seek alternate means around mobile device call security in general. Users can bypass these security concerns by imposing their own security measures. Commercially available methods, like VPN services, offer protection no matter what type of wifi security is being used. This offers a sigh of relief to business professionals and long-distance couples who would prefer to keep their video calls as private as possible.

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