RealTime IT News

SafeMessage Gets Export Approval

AbsoluteFuture gained U.S. regulator approval to market its encrypted email program to worldwide companies, it was announced Thursday.

The company received the blessings of the U.S. Bureau of Export Administration Oct. 28, and expects to gain federal approval to sell its SafeMessage software solution to foreign government agencies within 60 days.

The Bureau reviews all software using encrypted technology for export, but generally rubber stamps approval for distribution to European Union and other major countries. Only embargoed countries like Iraq, Iran, Cuba and Libya are banned from encrypted software.

SafeMessage gives end users "peer-to-peer" encrypted file sharing, similar to the technology used by music-swapping maverick Napster. The sender also sets a timer on the message, giving it a self-destruct cue when the time expires (think "Mission Impossible")

Scott Whitmore, AbsoluteFuture vice president of sales and marketing, said the software goes far beyond the 128-bit encryption maximum found in Internet standard Secure Sockets Layer. The layered encryption found in SafeMessage starts with 1,024-bit encryption then layers it, making it next to impossible to crack in the time before the message is erased, he said.

"As paranoid as we are here in the U.S., it's worse overseas, which will make them very receptive to our product," Whitmore said. "Overseas, there aren't the laws Americans enjoy to protect a person's privacy."

The security of an individual's email has come under worldwide scrutiny this year, as government's around the world try to find a legal, and ethical, method of monitoring illegal activities.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations tried to shove Carnivore down the throats of American Internet service providers, sending privacy advocates into an apoplexy of outrage over what it saw as a breach to the Fourth Amendment.

Even the government itself couldn't properly assure the public it could guarantee the rights of innocent citizens.

Representative John Conyers (D-MI), in a special meeting of the Judiciary Committee July 24, expressed little trust in the FBI's new snooping tool.

"Should we now be comfortable with a 'trust us, we're the government' approach?" he said. "I don't think anybody on this committee shares that view."

Across the ocean to England, ISPs and e-commerce companies are dealing with a political landscape that saw the passage of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, which gives English authorities, notably MI5, the right to place "black boxes" at POPs around the country. Many businesses, including powerhouse investment company Goldman Sachs, are looking at options to move operations out of the country to avoid the government's prying.

Federal law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Atlantic insist the snooping measures are needed to keep up with criminals using email to send information about illegal activities.

Whitmore said his encrypted email program wasn't designed to let criminals avoid the law, but for legitimate security needs.

"There's the capability of any technology to be misused, but our software was designed for the legitimate privacy needs of professionals," Whitmore said. "We're geared towards lawyers who want to protect their clients privacy, or the doctor and his patient. As a matter of fact, we're in talks with several U.S. federal agencies to provide our email solution to high-level employees.

"Look at the corporations out there," Whitmore continued. "Forget the FBI, it's all the other people out there that you have to watch out for. Packet sniffing tools are available for download anywhere. Companies that need to keep their financials private are especially vulnerable to corporate espionage."

Or, in the case of Microsoft Corp., keeping inappropriate ema