Encryption for the Masses
ZixMail simplifies secure, encrypted messaging.
Nearly everyone you ask nowadays has an email address. I can tell when
something has become mainstream when my dad (who doesn't know how to turn
a computer on) has it. As most administrators know, however, email is
insecure. Anyone with a bit of mail systems knowledge can send email posed
as another user.
To address this problem, larger organizations use the process of signing
and sealing email--the same process used for writing a letter several
hundred years ago. If you wanted to ensure that the letter arrived at
its destination untampered with, you'd sign it, melt wax over the envelope,
and place a seal, that only you had, in the wax. The recipient receiving
the letter with the wax seal intact; then knew that the message in the
envelope was, in fact, from you. With email, a digital code is attached
that can be use to authenticate the sender.
The process of signing and sealing email is an expensive one, from both
a cost and processing power standpoint. Although larger organizations
can afford this solution for their users, many smaller businesses and
individuals cannot. Enter ZixMail, a utility that lets you send encrypted
messages that can only be opened by the desired recipient. One of ZixMail's
strengths is that it works with any existing email system.
Sending a message with ZixMail is easy. First, download the 2M program
from the Web site, install the application, and register with ZixMail.
Run ZixMail to create a new message.
When you're ready to send the message, simply click on the Send button.
You're then prompted to select the delivery method and the Signature Phrase
(created when ZixMail was first installed and registered). Clicking on
the OK button encrypts the message and sends it to the recipient.
The encrypted message is delivered to the recipient as an attached file
with the .zix extension. To read the message, the recipient simply double-clicks
on the attachment. This opens the encrypted message in the ZixMail application
and prompts the user to enter the Signature Phrase. If the Signature Phrase
is valid, the e-mail message will be unencrypted and displayed. [A new
version of ZixMail was released soon after this review was finished; it
doesn't require ZixMail in order to read the encrypted messages.--Ed.]
With ZixMail you can store messages for delivery at a later time, create
contacts and groups, which lets you send encrypted messages to a mailing
list, and you can certify both the delivery and read status of sent messages.
All in all, ZixMail is a great tool for encrypting email. It's easy to
install, configure, and use. And, considering some of the features promised
for the future, such as integration with Microsoft Outlook, a Lite version
that fits on a floppy disk, Macintosh and Unix versions, and a Web-based
version, ZixMail may become a standard for sending encrypted messages.
About the Author
Barry Shilmover, MCSE+I, MCT, owns Shilmover Consulting Services, a Microsoft
Solution Provider specializing in Windows NT/2000 and Exchange 5.5/2000 solutions.
He has co-authored books that include Windows 2000 System Administrator’s
Black Book and Exchange 5.5 Exam Cram, both from Coriolis Press.