Skype Security & Other VoIP Systems: The Future & How to Protect Yourself

As we’ve discussed in previews blog posts, Skype runs on a “Voice over Internet Protocol” or “VoIP” which apparently is the common platform for videoconferencing online. The security of VoIP-based platforms, as well as reliability are the two issues I like to explore today.

VoIPAs I look for potential sources of information about the security and reliability of systems like Skype, I am dismayed to see a lack of information in our mental health literature, despite the fact that a growing number of practitioners have no hesitancy to use these systems with psychotherapy and counseling patients.

Because I’m unaware and unsophisticated about the scientific literature related to technology, my best options are Internet discussion areas and websites related to these topics. Granted, these are secondary sources, but please let me be clear that I have no intent of pursuing academic excellence in technology or engineering, as I have in mental health.

On the other hand, if any of you have more specific information than the topics I’m providing in my blog posts, please cite them below. I have several consulting clients who are asking for this information and I’m doing my best to not only access my informational resources, but also let everyone who might read this blog know that I’m actively seeking this type of information.

Regarding the security of VoIP-based systems and our future as counselors and psychotherapists online, I’ve read an author by the name of Herships who quotes Mr. Harry Emerson III, “The Internet has produced something akin to a gold rush experience for those mining its resources and developing its vast potentialities.” But, in the midst of this frenzy, he has observed that “fundamental requirements of privacy, secrecy, and security are seldom openly discussed when it comes to Internet-based phone services known as “Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems such as SKYPE, which are rapidly being developed” (2008).

The most commonly discussed defense I can find online against a possible attack from intruders is the construction of a firewall at both ends of VoIP systems. A firewall would provide a barrier between your computer or network and security threats such as hackers and viruses. However, as VoIP technology progresses and proliferates, factory standard firewalls are not predicted to be enough.

Fortunately, many different companies are dedicating substantial resources to closing Skype and other VoIP security loopholes to make viable videoconferencing available to large undeserved populations online.  My best suggestion until the secure systems are available online would be for practitioners to meet face-to-face with initial clients or patients, then use software developed by companies such as Polycom and Tandberg to deliver their services remotely. If such installations are too expensive right now, pick up the telephone and talk to them over a secure telephone line.

To learn more about the ethical issues related to practitioners can connect online with their patients/clients using videoconferencing systems that are most often used in NIH and NIMH funded research, contact me.

Herships, J. (2008, December 27). No More Hacking. Retrieved March 11, 2010, from http://ezinearticles.com/?No-More-Hacking&id=1824342

That’s the reference I have for this topic — what’s yours? Can you provide additional information that might change my view? Please comment below.

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