New Company Developing Self-destructing E-mail.


Thursday, October 7th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


New company developing self-destructing e-mail
Sending nasty e-mail messages about the
boss? Using your computer to maintain an interoffice affair? How about those sensitive electronic business negotiations?
Those e-mail messages, designed to be fleeting, spur-of-the-moment communications, never really disappear -- witness
the government's use of internal Microsoft messages in its antitrust case.
Once e-mail is created, it is virtually impossible to erase from computers, and experts can reconstruct even the "ghosts" of
deleted messages.
But what if an e-mail message could be written in code and the key to read it could be destroyed at the sender's command?
A startup high-tech firm called Disappearing Inc. has created a system that does just that. It encrypts each e-mail message, lets the sender set the key's life span -- anywhere from a few seconds to years -- then turns the message back to gibberish once the key self-destructs.
"Encrypted e-mail is as good as disappeared," said Kevin
Werbach, managing editor of the high-tech newsletter Release 1.0. "The National Security Agency might be able to crack it with a
supercomputer, but you couldn't read it, and that's good enough."
The system only works if both the sender and the recipient want the message to disappear, though. Send harassing e-mail, and the
recipient could easily print the message or copy it to another file before the key self-destructs, Werbach said.
Other e-mail products on the market can make a sender anonymous or secure a communications link from outsiders, Werbach said. But Disappearing Inc.'s encrypted e-mail is the only product he knows of that builds in a time limit for messages sent through common
e-mail systems.
Disappearing Inc. co-founder Dave Marvit came up with the idea after listening to speakers at a conference describe all the things one shouldn't say in e-mail, said co-founder Jeff Ubois.
The private company was formed in February.

The Associated Press.