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Skype Usage policy for Warwick Business School

This policy and the original policy draw heavily on the Skype Policies formulated by Loughborough University (http://www.lboro.ac.uk/computing/security/skype-policy.html ) and Durham University (http://www.dur.ac.uk/its/policy/documents/skype/ ) - this policy has been modified to reflect the subsequent update of those policies and our review of how Skype is used at WBS.

What is Skype?

Skype is a free telephony application that uses peer-to-peer (P2P) network protocols to allow users to make free internet-based phones calls to other Skype users. Skype is a specific exclusion from the WBS policy that prohibits all P2P software, see http://group.wbs.ac.uk/issu/policies/peertopeer .

How does it work?

Skype uses proprietary protocols that prevent a detailed understanding of how the software works. In general, however, calls made using the system are routed through other computers with Skype installed whenever this provides a clearer path than connecting directly from one client to the other.

Reasons for concern

If these intermediary computers are connected to a fast Internet feed, such as here at Warwick, there is a high risk that the computer will become a ‘Supernode’ that starts to route large amounts of Internet traffic (that is a lot of other people’s conversations, not just your own). This could have service implications not only for the local computer but the wider Warwick network. Additionally, due to the closed nature of the Skype protocols, there are concerns as to the security and privacy implications of the use of Skype. These concerns have led a number of large American universities to prohibit the use of Skype ( see for example http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060924-7814.html ).

Our Internet provider (JANET) provides the following clarification of the use of Skype across their networks:

"Section 11 of the Policy prohibits 'provid[ing] access to JANET for third parties without the prior agreement of JANET (UK)', but permits a limited amount of such use provided this is regulated by the customer organisation. Uncontrolled use of Skype, and particularly its bandwidth-hungry super-node behaviour, is likely to breach one or both of these sections."

http://www.ja.net/documents/development/voip/skype-and-janet.pdf (PDF Document)

Restrictions on the use of Skype at WBS

While understanding the above, ISSU recognise the potential benefits of Skype and therefore allow Skype to be installed on machines connected to the network at WBS provided the following conditions are met/understood:

  • Skype is only permitted where there is a clear academic or business purpose. Users are advised to refrain from installing Skype if they don't actually need to use the capabilities that it offers - you may find that Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, WBSlive, or the chat facility in my.wbs meets your instant messenging and collaboration needs.
  • Skype should always be installed using WBS Applications (on Windows XP) or Run Advertised Programs (on Windows 7) - this is particularly important on Windows XP as the latest version at the time of writing (Skype 4.2) doesn't actually work when logged in to the network.
  • Skype must be set to not load automatically on start up. If Skype is installed via WBS Applications this will be set automatically and must not be changed. Otherwise you can disable automatic starting by unchecking the box labelled “Start Skype when computer starts” on the Skype login dialogue.
  • Skype is only running whilst the user is at the computer to receive or make calls.
  • Should a computer on which Skype is installed use an excessive amount of bandwidth the user must remove the software immediately at our request and if the user is not available we will disconnect the computer from the network.
  • Should the JANET Acceptable Use Policy (A.U.P.) (PDF Document) or the University of Warwick IT Services usage policies subsequently change to explicitly prohibit Skype then the user must remove the software immediately at our request.
  • Skype must not be installed on any machines in the PG IT Suite. You should contact ISSU if you wish to use Skype on a lectern / teaching computer.
  • ISSU offer no support in the use of Skype unless otherwise arranged.
  • ISSU, the university, and JANET, offer no guarantees on quality of service for Skype network traffic.
  • By installing the software, users are agreeing to the terms of the End-User Licence Agreement (EULA) for Skype . In particular they are aware that Article 4.1 allows Skype to utilize the local computer’s processor and bandwidth to facilitate communication between Skype users.