Though you'll mostly be using Skype through its desktop program and not its website, the program still requires the Internet to work. This means that you may still have some questions about how safe and secure Skype really is. In this article, we'll discuss a few ways that Skype maintains its own security, as well as what you can do to keep your personal information private while using Skype.
Skype creates a "digital certificate" to pair with your Skype name; this makes sure that Skype can monitor both who communicates and receives communication through Skype, to make sure that everyone is who they say they are. It also allows you to be sure that the person on the other end is an actual Skype user, and not a hacker or someone looking to steal your information. In addition, Skype uses industry-standard encryption tools to make sure that the only people who can understand what you are saying on Skype are you and the person on the other end of the phone call, video chat, or instant message.
Skype also has transaction systems in place that are compliant with the Payment Card Industry's Data Security Standards. This means that you can safely use your credit card to pay for Skype Credit or other calling subscriptions, and Skype will securely store your billing information so that nobody unauthorized can get at it.
There are a couple of simple things that you can do to protect your privacy when using Skype.
Choose a strong password
This one's kind of obvious, but we think it's worth mentioning anyway. Use a password that is of significant length and consists of a combination of at least two of letters, numbers, and/or symbols. Also make it something that you'll remember, but not easily guessable. For example, "baseball" is not a good password. "b@$e8a77" is a significantly better password.
Be selective about what profile information you share
When you look at your profile on the Skype program, you can see what parts of your profile are "Public" (anyone who finds you on Skype can see them), which ones can only be seen by your "Contacts", and which ones are "Private" (so that only you can see them). If you don't want certain people seeing certain information about you, then you don't have to enter it. Also, there are some information fields, highlighted in black, where you can choose who can see the information. Click them to choose between Contacts or Private.
Adjust your privacy settings to determine who can contact you or send you information
In the Privacy category under the Privacy Settings sub-category, there are all sorts of ways to control how private Skype is for you. You can limit who can send you phone calls or instant messages to people in your "Contacts" list, and you can limit who can automatically send you video or a shared screen (without you having to approve it) to just your contacts, or nobody at all. You can choose how long Skype keeps a record of your instant messages, and delete that record if you wish.
You can also prevent Skype from showing your online status if you have your Skype information posted on the web somewhere, and you can disable "cookies" and "targeted advertising" (and delete the former) to stop Skype from snooping on how you use the program in order to suggest doing things that you may not want to do, or sell you things that you may not want.
See our Skype Settings tutorial for more information on how these settings work.
Manage settings that let Skype do things automatically
Skype lets you do certain things without having to approve them in order to streamline your experience, but this can leave you open to getting calls, messages, or computer files from suspicious -- and potentially dangerous -- people. Two particular settings can help with this.
First, under the Calls category and Call Settings sub-category of your "Settings" page, click Show Advanced Options, and disable the options to accept calls automatically and/or to automatically start a video chat (if possible) when you accept a call. This lets you control these things manually, so you can block a call or keep your camera off to hide who you are if you think you're being contacted by someone suspicious.
Second, under the I.M. and S.M.S. category and I.M. Settings sub-category of your "Settings" page, click Show Advanced Options, and disable the option to accept files sent to you automatically. This can prevent you from automatically downloading files from suspicious contacts, as these files may be infected with viruses.
Block contacts who seem suspicious or who try to harass you
If someone sends you an instant message or tries to call you, and you don't know who they are, you can block them. You can also block people who make repeated unwanted attempts to contact you. This prevents them from contacting you in any way through Skype.
See our Skype Contacts tutorial for instructions on how to block (or unblock) people on Skype.
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