Rogers, IBM team up for secure e-mail market opportunity

A division of Rogers Communications Inc. Monday announced a hosted, subscription-based encryption e-mail service, making it the first Canadian-based Internet service provider to do so.

IBM Canada Ltd. will host Rogers Secure Mail, which is part of Rogers Business Solutions, on its Intel-based xSeries platforms at its security operations centre in Toronto. IBM said it may offer the service with other ISPs in the future but has yet to name those with whom it will partner.

“There’s a host of solutions and products that help increase the security around your e-mail,” said Richard Branston, general manager, security solutions, IBM Canada. “What encryption does is physically encrypt that specific e-mail. You’re basically sending a postcard through the Internet that everyone can read.”

Secure Mail was developed by Toronto-based security software company Echoworx Corp., which approached Rogers and IBM about this idea a year ago. Echoworx currently offers a similar service in the U.S. and Canada through Verizon and AT&T, which is hosted by Sun Microsystems Inc., and in Europe.

With Secure Mail, which is available for $8.95 per month per e-mail address, users don’t have to switch ISPs or e-mail addresses, said Chris Erickson, executive vice-president, Echoworx.

“Now you’ve got Rogers, who (are) able to provide a value-added service, which is attached to your e-mail to anybody, including their competitors in Canada and anywhere in the world,” said Erickson.

Erickson added that e-mail security goes beyond anti-virus and spam protection these days.

“Everyone seems to think e-mail security means anti-virus software,” he said. “That’s just hygiene, it’s not privacy.”

Secure Mail works by the user installing a plug-in, similar to the PDF format, for example, to their e-mail client, such as Microsoft Outlook. When the user hits send, a second button will automatically pop up that, when pressed, will encrypt the message before it is sent. The recipient will then be prompted for a password, which is given to them in the e-mail, to open up the message. If the person receiving the e-mail does not use the same client as the sender, they will be directed to the Rogers pick up centre Web page where the message can be decrypted.

Secure Mail is based on industry encryption standards, including PKI, X.509 and S/MIME, which allows users of different e-mail systems to view the message, regardless of what software they have installed.

Sarah Talacek, vice-president of marketing, Rogers Business Solutions, said security is becoming an increasing concern for Rogers’ clients.

“It’s more of a privacy issue,” said Talacek. “Spam and virus blocking tactics that have been putting in place are more about preventing fraud attacks. What we’re talking about here is the security of information.”

A survey conducted by IBM Canada in March 2006, in which over 150 CIOs were interviewed, found that 62 per cent of Canadian businesses believe that cyber crime is more costly to them than physical crime.

“We’re starting to notice that many senior leaders in IT organizations are starting to worry more and more about organized crime and the threat to IT security caused by that,” said IBM Canada’s Branston. “They’re becoming less worried about the hacker individual and more worried about their exposure to cybercrime through organized crime.”

Likewise, Microsoft Canada Co. senior security product manager Derick Wong said the bulk of threats nowadays are moving away from the technology side and moving over to the people side.

“The attackers are going to go after the path of least resistance,” said Wong. “That’s where you’re starting to get the phishing and the pharming, where they’re going to persuade somebody to go to this site that they don’t know that is designed to automatically download these viruses or spyware.”

Microsoft Canada in April launched four security software offerings based on the technology from Frontbridge Technologies Inc., which Microsoft Corp. acquired in July 2005. These include a filtering tool, which helps block inbound and outbound e-mail from spam, viruses, phishing scams and e-mail policy violations, and an encryption service that allows users to encrypt and deliver any e-mail without adding any hardware or software to their current environment. The latter product starts at $1.90 per user per month and is offersed as part of Microsoft’s Volume Licencing Program.

Compliance with industry regulations, especially in the financial, accounting and health-care sectors, is also driving businesses to adopt better e-mail security mechanisms, said Rogers’ Talacek.

“With all of the publicity around ID theft, that hype in the media is causing more concern for the end users, “ she said.

Secure Mail is now available to businesses for pre-order at www.rogers.com/securemail.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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