InTether keeps leash on secure documents

Sensitive information has the uncanny knack of straying far from its owner, leaving senior executives to dwell on the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” of corporate security.

InTether, new software from Infraworks Corp., may help solve that problem by tying up important business documents with a short tether. One need look no further than the recent CSIS scandal, where a printed copy of top secret information was stolen from the back seat of a parked car, to see the need to control document movement. Had the document been “InTethered” the owners of the information could presumably have guaranteed no printed copy would ever exist.

“How can we make sure certain that if I send a merger and acquisition proposal to somebody, that that person doesn’t pass it on to the Wall Street Journal?” said George Friedman, chairman and CTO of Austin, Tex.-based Infraworks.

“The applications are very broad for corporations, where five per cent or 10 per cent of the information represents 90 per cent of the value,” said Bob Gomes, president and CEO of Infraworks. You have to be sure your information is not being used illegally. And thus InTether was born.

The software comes in two parts; a packager and a reader. Together, the product actually changes the file characteristics from unconditional to conditional.

Securing information is a simple process, according to Infraworks. Generally, e-mail and files downloaded from the Internet can be printed, copied and distributed freely. To secure these, users choose the file to InTether, set the permissions, resave it as an InTether file and then distribute the new version. The receiver must have the InTether reader, which can either be attached to the document or downloaded from the Infraworks Web site.

“You can decide what app will play it – Real Audio can, Liquid Audio can’t, for example. You can also decide how many copies can be made, how many prints. You can make all sorts of decisions about what level of reproduction you are going to permit,” Friedman said. Time variables such as how long a user can access the file or how many times it can be opened will also be included.

Though there is certain to be corporate interest, many in the entertainment industry see the software as the needed assurance to get major record and video labels to put their content on-line, according to Chris Hensley, president of Infoloc Inc., a New York-based company formed to make InTether available to the entertainment industry.

“Right now, the content available on-line is pretty much unsigned acts and older products,” Hensley said. “The reason the majors have been reluctant to jump on (the Web) is that they are not confident they can protect their artists and their copyright.”

“In the world of content, music and video have not caught up because of fear of redistribution. You sell one (copy), it gets posted on the Web, and you don’t sell any more,” Infraworks’ Gomes said.

Most encryption software is designed to protect stored information or information in transit. With the Web in mind, many developers are moving toward adding some control over downloading and copying of digital information.

“There are other suppliers who are coming out of the woodwork with similar solutions, but this looks like the most comprehensive and easiest solution we have seen to date,” said Jim Hurley, managing director of information security at Boston-based Aberdeen Group Inc. “Other packages out there have severe limitations. Either the client footprint is too big or – and this is the more common restriction – they only work with a specific data type,” he said.

“InTether will work with any data type and any application and you get it for one price.”

Using InTether is essentially seamless, according to the company. “The files are also compressed in transit so the footprint is only about 40KB to 50KB, but this is lost once it arrives so there is no increase in corporate storage,” Gomes said.

But is it hackerproof? “We designed the product so that it is not one single security level but seven or eight interlocking security levels. If you violate the rules, we have sensors that the rules are being violated, that you hacked in, and the data gets destroyed,” said Infraworks’ Friedman.

InTether ( will be available in Q4. Pricing starts at US$165 per seat. The InTether reader, necessary to view InTethered files, can be downloaded for free.

Infraworks in Austin, Tex., is at 1-800-308-5825.