Encryption on the installment plan

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t need to encrypt all your files. But there may be times you’d like to enhance the privacy of your data or your Web-surfing activities. A new suite of software products is designed to do just that, by offering a level of encryption that you can employ on an as-needed basis.

“We are giving individuals the option to use sophisticated privacy products,” says Fred Tuttle, president of Encrypt-Now.com. “There could be a business deal or a very personal file that you don’t want people to see. So we allow you to protect certain files selectively.”

The company claims that the service offers the first technology that allows users to keep certain files private without having to purchase special software or risk storing the data on a computer’s hard drive.

One component is the portal called Fogbank-Now. After you log in, your actions cannot be traced or analyzed by any third party. With Fogbank, no one – neither those who want to track your demographics and sell you something nor those who share your computer – will know which Web sites you visit. Accessible from any PC, Fogbank erases all traces of the session from the host computer at log-off. The $10-a-month service also includes a secure messaging facility, where users can leave encrypted notes to other people, to be accessed only with an encryption key.

Encrpyt-Now.com also offers a CD service: It will commit confidential files to an encrypted disc and give you the key for $25 per disc. You can then carry the data with you and access (but not edit) it from any computer.

You Control Confidentiality

“We are providing these services to people when they need them,” Tuttle says. “People who share a terminal will want a certain level of privacy.” He compares the service to copy shops. “If you only make a few copies a month, you won’t buy a whole copier, you’ll just take them to Kinko’s. People who need a lot of security will get something like PGP and install it on their server.”

The service allows you to easily control what remains confidential. For instance, an attorney or an accountant involved in acquisition needs an extra level of security if only for a few days. “If that kind of scuttlebutt gets out prematurely, it can completely destroy morale,” says Tuttle.

None of Encrypt-Now.com’s products allows you to send and receive encrypted products through standard e-mail channels, although Tuttle says the company may address that market in the future.

Tuttle also compares these services to locking your car, saying they allow the same kind of configurable, subjective security.

“I may not lock my car when it’s sitting there in my garage,” he says, “but I sure will when I park it outside the mall.”