Kobi Alexander, the founder of Comverse, was nabbed
in Negombo, Sri Lanka yesterday by a private investigator. He is wanted
by the US government in connection with financial fraud charges. He is
accused of profiting from some very shady stock-option deals, to the
detriment of Comverse shareholders. Once the deals became public and he
was indicted, he resigned as CEO and fled the US.
was traced to the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo after he placed a
one-minute call using Skype. That was enough to alert authorities to
his presence and hunt him down.
The fugitive former CEO
may have been convinced that using Skype made him safe from tracking,
but he—and everyone else that believes VoIP is inherently more secure
than a landline—was wrong. Tracking anonymous peer-to-peer VoIP traffic
over the Internet is possible (PDF). In fact, it can be done even if the parties have taken some steps to disguise the traffic.
VoIP and law enforcement have been in the news lately,
due primarily to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
CALEA, passed in 1994, gives the FBI the ability to easily tap landline
and cell phone calls. As written, CALEA had originally included some
exemptions for Internet-based systems, but the FBI convinced the
Federal Communications Commission that they should not apply to VoIP
traffic. As a result, VoIP operators in the US will need to make their
systems wiretap friendly.
If nothing else, Alexander's
capture reinforces the message that despite appearances, nothing we do
on the Internet is truly anonymous.