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Russian Reverse Engineer Praises Skype

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Good products can’t stay proprietary for long, says Efim Bushmanov, the Russian who published an open source version of Skype’s protocol

Interview by East West Digital News.

Last week, the news broke that a Russian programmer had reverse-engineered Skype’s proprietary VoIP  protocols. In an interview, he praises Skype as a good product with more “polish” than open source software can muster. He denies any malicious intent including spamming or phishing, and says that products like Skype simply cannot remain proprietary for ever and hopes that Microsoft, which is buying Skype for $8.5 billion, will remain neutral to the project, and could benefit it in the end.

Tucked away in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic some 1,400 km northeast of Moscow, Russian programming researcher Efim Bushmanov is getting a lot of attention. Having reverse engineered Skype protocols and then made his research available to the public via his blog just a few days ago on June 2, search queries bearing his name now generate over 10,000 responses on Google.

Good Products Will Get Cracked

In this interview with EWDN – his first ever exchange with the press – the 30 year old Bushmanov reveals some of what he’s been up to over the past three years while working to replicate Skype’s ‘blackbox.’ He responds to accusations of copyright violations and shares his vision of an open-source VoIP future.

Who is Bushmanov?
Computers are my life and my only hobby. I don’t get out too much, but when I do I prefer odd times when not many people are about. I’m an avid morning jogger in the summer – this is when I get my daily dose of fresh air. In the winter I ski cross country. I’m inspired by classical music and I’ve always got Spivakov Classic internet radio going in my apartment. I’m a loner, mostly, but I keep up correspondence with programmers and code enthusiasts from around the world online.

I graduated from the faculty of physical Sciences at Syktyvkar State University, where I specialised in theoretical and computational physics.

I was a systems administrator in two banks until the economic crisis came in 2008, and then I left because I was fed up with working there. Now I do research on my own projects. Officially I am unemployed, but I do freelance work. This is why I have so much time to study all sorts of interesting and complex things. Like Skype, for instance.

What are your favorite things in computing?
I like learning and hacking Linux kernel. Understanding the Linux Kernel, published by O’Reilly Media, is the best book I ever read on this theme. I also like researching networks and protocols. I enjoy researching and learning Cisco production and network protocols. I am always interested in things such as the way BGP works.

In 2000, I was very interested in X.25 (SPRINTNET/TELENET) networks. They are very outdated now, but still interesting from the point of view of a protocol researcher. X.25 networks, which appeared in the US even before the Internet, were also popular in Russia in the late 1990s due to the high cost of Internet access. The main challenge was the lack of access to the network level (in OSI terminology). Access was possible only via a PAD (packet assembler/disassembler), a hardware device which enabled access, but only to the application layer.

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