In The Briefing Room: Enlocked E-mail Security Tools

Knowledge workers who have been faced with having to e-mail confidential or sensitive information know the drill.  Break up the information into a few separate e-mail messages, use an external secure e-mail tool separate from your normal e-mail system, or just assume nothing can happen and send the e-mail regardless.

None of these solutions is ideal and taking action to secure e-mail frequently requires both the sender and recipient to take extra steps that interrupt their work and waste valuable time.  Getting the information to the recipient securely may require phone calls, sending of passwords via separate e-mail channels, the creation of locked versions of documents in PDF, or packaging information in secure ZIP files.

E-mail presents us with two distinct problems.  The first is the security of the message sent.  Standard e-mail messages are not encrypted and are vulnerable to interception, making it necessary to take further precautions.  The issue of e-mail security is particularly challenging for smaller organizations or individuals who may not have enterprise-level tools available to them.

Moving out of the e-mail client environment to ensure secure communications creates a second problem: in order to secure e-mail messages, the series of steps that must be taken slow down the knowledge worker, and are often simply ignored because of their complexity.  Recently, my colleague Jonathan Spira related to me how he sent sensitive information to his banker.  He first scanned the document, saved it as a PDF file, password protecting it from prying eyes, and then e-mailed it to the banker.  He then called the banker and gave her the password over the phone.

Enlocked, an e-mail security company, is attempting to solve both of these problems in a way that will not only secure important communications and safeguard information, but also not disrupt the flow for the knowledge worker.  Enlocked integrates into either the user’s browser or e-mail client, or it can be used via a mobile app.  Users are given the option of hitting a “Send Secure” button when sending an e-mail, which encrypts the message using the company’s cloud servers.  Enlocked uses the user’s existing credentials (e.g. Google ID if Enlocked is being used with Gmail) when encrypting, so the recipient can verify the validity of the encrypted messages.

On the recipient’s end, if they are an Enlocked user, the system verifies their identity in the same way, by checking the credentials of the plug-in or app.  If they are not an Enlocked user, the recipient is prompted to either download the plugin or to use a Web-based Enlocked Anywhere tool.

The advantage of a system such as Enlocked is that it addresses the two problems outlined previously, namely security and ease of use.  The process of taking the steps needed to exchange a secure e-mail is time consuming and causes the knowledge worker to leave the e-mail client.  This violates the One Environment Rule, a key tenet of Basex’ vision of the productive work environment, the Collaborative Business Environment.  Simply put, the One Environment Rule states that the more knowledge workers stay in one overarching environment to do their work, the more likely it is that the initiative will succeed, and the knowledge workers will be productive.  Conversely, the more the knowledge workers are forced to switch work environments, the more likely they are to fail in their tasks.

When it comes to security, knowledge workers today are faced with a conundrum.  They need to secure communications, but the process of doing so with the available tools slows them down and decreases their productivity.  Knowledge workers already live in their inboxes (for better or worse), and to ensure they use secure communications, any encryption tools must be added to the e-mail client environment.  Tools such as Enlocked, which recognize the necessity of allowing the knowledge worker to complete tasks without switching work environments, could bring easy to use e-mail security to the masses.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

January 18, 2012 – A notable day in information history


In what had an eerie resemblance to a No Email Friday but which occurred for very different reasons, portions of the Internet went dark last week.

On January 18, major Web sites including Wikipedia and Reddit were closed to business. Google did not shut down but covered up its logo with a large black bar, making it look as if the site had been censored.

These were all part of a grassroots effort to protest anti-piracy legislation, namely the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect I.P. Act (PIPA), which had been working their way through Congress.

This is the first time in history that major Web sites banded together in protest and it was largely led by information providers (i.e. Wikipedia and Google), which get more traffic than other sites.

After the protest, dozens of members of Congress as well as the White House dropped their support of the bills and the sponsors of SOPA and PIPA are contemplating considerable changes to the bills.

While some of the Internet sites went a bit overboard with scare tactics about SOPA and PIPA, ultimately the power of the people – and information providers – prevailed. The people spoke and the government listened and made an abrupt about face.

And regardless of any future legislation that may address anti-piracy, January 18, 2012 was a notable day in information history.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.

Overloaded 2012 – An IORG Event

On Feb. 25, in San Francisco, the Information Overload Research Group will host “Overloaded 2012″, a gathering of people from a diversity of domains such as business, academia, technology, journalism, psychology, and research, committed to the battle against information overload. We’ve intentionally decided to make this an “un-conference”, a more informal and intimate event than a full blown conference, where the focus will be on creating a lively dialog, crossing organizational and domain boundaries, and developing new insight into the state of information overload as well as the latest solutions.
In my experience, getting professional colleagues who usually interact remotely into one physical room liberates incredible energy. Ideas flow, knowledge is shared, innovative thinking is triggered, collaborations are born, friendships are cemented… in fact, IORG itself was born in the aftermath of such a gathering a few years ago. I look forward to attending this day in San Francisco with much pleasant anticipation!

If you share our passion, please join us there! Reserve your place by registering here. We look forward to meeting you in what promises to be a productive, interesting and (not least) fun coming together of like minds.

Nathan Zeldes is the president of the Information Overload Research Group.

What the future holds: IBM’s 5 in 5 Forecast and More Information Overload Ahead

On New Year’s Eve, we generally like to take stock of where we are, take a deep breath, prepare for a fresh new year with some resolutions, and of course, make wild predictions about the future.

IBM is getting into the spirit of the season with its 5 in 5, a list of five innovations that will change our lives in five years.  This is the sixth year that the company has released its list of predictions, which are driven by market data, social trends, and innovations taking place in IBM research labs.

Before we look ahead, let’s look at how IBM has done with its past predictions.  In 2006 IBM predicated that, by 2011, we would have digitized medical records and be using advanced video teleconferencing systems to speak and interact with our doctors.  We are not completely there, but we are on the way.  The company also predicted context-aware mobile devices and nanotechnology being used to control our environment.  Mobile devices have certainly evolved in that direction, and we are using advanced nanotechnology to improve solar energy collection.

In the fail column, IBM also believed that, by 2011, we would be immersed in a 3-D Internet (Snow Crash, anyone?) and that real-time translation (Star Trek-style) would be possible.

In the area of Information Overload, we previously predicted that Information Overload would continue to increase despite attempts by us and on the part of others to raise awareness of the high cost and the negative impact it has.  Unfortunately, we were correct in our prediction and the amount of Information Overload rose in lockstep with the increase in the amount of information created over the past year.

Looking to the year ahead, the trend will continue and we can expect more of the same, namely more information and more Information Overload.

This year, in its 5 in 5 forecast and on a more positive note, IBM is banking on the following:

1.)  People power.  Advances in renewable energy technology will allow for the harnessing of kinetic energy from movement such as walking or jogging, or even residual heat from individuals or machines.

2.)  Multi-factor biometrics.  Passwords will become obsolete as we increasingly rely on identification via biometric data such as facial definitions, retinal scans, and voice recognition.

3.)  Mind reading.  No, really.  Bioinformatics is the field of harnessing electronic brain activity with advanced sensors to understand facial expressions, concentration levels, and thoughts of a person.  The technology can be applied to controlling mobile devices, medical testing, and the gaming industry.

4.)  Death of the digital divide.  IBM believes that the ubiquity of mobile devices will all but eliminate the gap between those who have information access and those who do not.  The company estimates that in the next five years there will be 5.6 billion mobile devices sold, giving 80% of the 7 billion people on earth access to such a device.

5.)  Junk mail will become useful?  With both spam filters and targeted advertising becoming more precise, IBM thinks that real-time analytics will become so advanced that the technology will be able to accurately determine what you really want.  An example of this kind of predictive, targeted advertising would be reserving concert tickets for your favorite band on a night that you have a free space on your calendar, all without asking you.

This year’s 5 in 5 predictions are interesting and fun, and it is easy to see how trends support some of the ideas.  Biometrics, control of technology via brain waves, and harnessing kinetic energy in particular seem very plausible.  Eliminating the digital divide that separates the information haves from the have nots and solving the junk mail problem seem a bit trickier, but in the spirit of the holidays lets be optimistic.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

(Image courtesy of John Stephen Dwyer)

New Year’s Resolutions for the Overloaded

It’s hard to believe, but the New Year is almost upon us.  In the interest of not contributing further to your overload, dear reader, I’ll keep my resolutions brief.

E-mail – as demonstrated by the amount of coverage that the Atos e-mail ban received in recent weeks – is still a hot topic, so let’s try to fix it for 2012.

First, when preparing an e-mail message for the consumption of others, write it with the recipient in mind and please take a moment and read it for comprehension before clicking on Send.

Second, when replying to an e-mail, please read the entire message you are replying to.  It’s amazing how many people reply asking a question about what the writer very clearly covered in paragraph seven of the original e-mail.

Third, on the topic of even having a paragraph seven in an e-mail message, keep e-mail messages short and on topic.  Cramming three or four (or 10 or 20) topics and questions into one e-mail simply means that most of them will be ignored and unread.

I can’t promise this will remedy all of the ills of the world but following these three easy steps will Lower the Overload in 2012.

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Prosit Neujahr!

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.