FBI spyware not Skype responsible for spilling MegaUpload secrets

FBI investigators may have infected MegaUpload's computers with spyware so as to monitor Skype and email messaging, it's been suggested, with sources within the Microsoft-owned VoIP company claiming it was not asked to turn over conversation logs. Multiple chat records were included by the FBI within its case against MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and other employees at the file-sharing site, dating back as much as five years, though exactly how the US government acquired them is unclear. Sources within Skype tell CNET that no approach was made to them to release private logs.

However, a spyware leak from within MegaUpload's own computers looks more likely to be the cause. "Electronic evidence was obtained though search warrants," a spokesman for the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said, "which are reviewed and approved by a US court."

The suggestion is that the FBI deployed a tool called CIPAV, or "Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier", which has been previously used to monitor web use in other investigations. Akin to more traditional spyware, CIPAV loiters silently on the victim's computers keeping a record of software, IP address, which sites are being visited, traffic over the network and other details. Meanwhile, Skype text conversations are stored in a local folder, which CIPAV could easily have had access to.

Dotcom was denied bail in New Zealand last month, over concerns that the outspoken exec could attempt to flee extradition to the US. Meanwhile, legitimate users are still unable to access their own data stored on MegaUpload's servers, though the Electronic Frontier Foundation and one of the file-sharing site's hosts have joined forces to start MegaRetrieval, exploring the potential of extracting non-copyrighted uploads.