Firm ensures encryption on the fly with Q-Assure

It took about three-and-a-half years and close to $4 million to create, but one Mississauga, Ont.-based company has developed a security solution that it believes will help protect information.

Q-Assure, a product introduced by Quintessence Management Consulting Inc. (QCMI), offers what the company calls “encryption on the fly” – encrypting files as the user types on a virtual drive.

“There is no user intervention required to initiate the encryption,” explained Ken Andruski, the president of QMCI.

He explained that once users log on to their systems in encrypted mode, everything that they type or bring back from their encrypted files is encrypted and decrypted on the fly in the background on the virtual drives. That means that the only English that ever appears on the computer would be on the users’ screens, which prevents a hacker from being able to access any original, pre-encrypted documents, Andruski said.

Print Three Franchise Corp., headquartered in Scarborough, Ont., needed a security tool that would enable its internal office and franchisees to keep their information, as well as that of customers’, secure. The company’s franchise stores provide printing services such as quick and colour printing, digital services and presentation services.

Print Three came across Q-Assure, and now has plans to implement it across its internal network and out to its stores, should franchisees choose to use it, according to John Johnson, the director of franchise development at Print Three.

“The thought was, when we investigated the product and brought it in, that many of our franchisees deal with customers that work with sensitive materials – whether it’s a law firm, or an accounting firm or anything else that requires a degree of security,” he explained.

The company’s system is totally digital, he said, and there are many instances where the franchise locations will download customers’ files.

“We thought if a customer had security problems or concerns, here’s a way to alleviate them; having that, by introducing a product that our franchisees could use with that customer to allow them a degree of security they never had before,” Johnson said.

He noted that there seems to be a lot of ease of use surrounding the product – one of the reasons his company chose to go with it. The benefit for users, he added, is “that you can’t really forget, because once it’s in encoded mode, every key stroke you take encodes as you go. It’s not a procedure that you do at the end…it’s happening all the time.”

The product works in all sizes of systems, according to Andruski, and can encrypt files and documents, as well as e-mail.

“It was also built in a kernel-type fashion so that it can integrate with any other product that is out there today,” he explained. He added that network administrators are able to set up the software across the network in one shot, but each individual using the network would still have to set up their passwords at their individual workstations.

The product runs on Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT, but Andruski added that if a client wanted to run it on Windows 2000, QMCI would probably be able to accommodate that request within about 90 days.

Q-Assure is available in an entry-level, personal edition; a mid-range edition; and a high-end edition, which features a smart card and reader.

“We also have a high degree of customization available, from 56-bit keys to 128-bit keys,” added Andruski. “But remember that when 56-bit’s on, for each bit it adds, it doubles the time that it would take to break the keys down.”

Pricing for the software begins at $195 and varies depending on the size of the company and on what services are required.