If you've read our primer on what Skype is and how it works, you know that you'll mostly be using Skype not through its website, but through its desktop program or mobile application. However, these still make use of the Internet in order to work, so you may have some questions about how safe and secure Skype really is. In this article, we'll discuss a few things that Skype does to help its users stay safe, private, and secure. We'll also outline a few things that you can do to maintain your safety and privacy while using Skype.
Skype is fairly private. You are in control of how much information you reveal about yourself on Skype. You can also decide who on Skype can or cannot add you as a contact, or communicate with you over Skype in any way. However, most people can at least find you on Skype if they know your Skype name or email address.
Skype is indeed secure. It monitors users' activities to make sure they are who they say they are, and encrypts communications so that unauthorized parties can't eavesdrop on conversations. It also has secure payment systems in place, so you can safely use and store your credit card details on Skype.
Skype is quite safe to use, as long as you take proper precautions against potential threats. For example, if someone suspicious on Skype tries to contact you, you can block them. You can even set Skype up to block all users not in your contacts list from communicating with you over Skype in any way.
The main thing to be careful of on Skype is suspicious users who may be running phishing scams. This usually involves contacting you out of the blue with a hyperlink to a suspicious website, or a computer file for you to download. Both of these things may give your computer a virus or malware program if you interact with them.
To be on the safe side, only use Skype to communicate with people whom you know well or trust, particularly those whom you've met outside of Skype. Sometimes, this requires vigilance on your part, while at other times, certain settings on Skype can help you out. Here are five other suggestions for how to stay safe while using Skype.
The most basic way to stay safe on Skype is to lock your account with a strong password, so that nobody else can access your account and use Skype while pretending to be you. 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, but "b@$e8a77" is a significantly better password.
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.
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 to try to sell you things that you may not want.
See our Skype Settings tutorial for more information on how these settings work.
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.
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 Skype users 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) users on Skype.
That wraps up our look at issues of safety, privacy, and security on Skype. We hope our advice has made you confident enough to try Skype; if it has, you can get started by learning how to download and install the Skype program. If you're still not sure about using Skype, we can also tell you about how much Skype costs (spoilers: most of it is free to use!), as well as give you an in-depth review of Skype.
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