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BANDUNG (JP): Are
you haunted by some of the things you have said in an email over the
years? Ever have that awful feeling of regret? You know you have been
caught, and you wish, wish to God, that you could turn back the clock and
make that one thing you did, said or wrote just go away. Maybe itwas
misspelling your name on a resume, or a tongue-in-cheek email you sent.
Emails never really
die. People like Monica Lewinsky, Bill Gates and Oliver North are
celebrities who have learned the hard way that a message long thought
deleted can be found on the network and later be used against its author.
It is more of a danger than people realize.
Perhaps you have
heard the story about NASA spending millions of dollars to develop a pen
that can write in zero gravity, but I am not sure whether this pen can be
used in normal gravity. A U.S. company called Disappearing,Inc. has a new
piece of software that could change all that. It is like a new pen
software equipped with "disappearing" ink, which makes your
email unreadable after a specified period of time.
Email is an email delivery
system that allows users to send encrypted messages across the Internet,
which can only be read for a specific length of time. After the time
period has elapsed, the encryption key, necessary for reading the
message, is deleted from the Disappearing Email Server, rendering the
message unreadable and therefore worthless.
Email works with Microsoft
Outlook 98 or Outlook 2000 running on Windows 95, Windows
98 or NT. Outlook Express is a completely different
Email does not support Outlook
Express, but any email clientsoftware (Outlook Express, Eudora,
etc.) can read Disappearing Email messages.
When you download
the free edition Disappearing Email for Microsoft Outlook
plug-in (about 350KB) from Disappearing's Web site (www.disappearing.com),
it is automatically installed and a "Send Disappearing" icon
appears on the Outlook toolbar. You use Outlook in the normal way
to compose messages. If you want to set a time limit on the message,
click on the Send Disappearing icon. The plug-in encrypts your messages
using the 128-bit Blowfish algorithm. It accesses Disappearing's key
server through a secure link, assigns a unique decryption key, and sends
the message on its way.
On the receiving
end, the email server is once again contacted for the necessary key, and
the message is then decoded and displayed to the viewer. For recipients
that are not running Outlook, the email viewer allows themto view Disappearing
encoded messages within their browser. But after the time limit specified
by the sender, the decryption key is erased from Disappearing's key
server, making the message unreadable and effectively destroying it, even
if the recipient stores it.
Users of Disappearing
Email for Microsoft Outlook can specify shorter or longer time
periods for the message to expire, starting as short as 30 minutes. The
simplicity of the system is underscored on the receiving side.The
recipient does not need a plug-in or any special software to read your
message. Any mail client that handles HTML, including all major email
programs and browser-based emails, such as Hotmail or Yahoo, can read
What happens when
someone replies to or forwards a Disappearing Email? When you send
a reply, a forwarded or redirected message a second key is generated, and
both keys are needed to read the reply. So when the originalmessage
expires, you can be certain that any replies or forwarded copies are also
permanently unreadable. You can, if you wish, send a reply or forward the
email that is set to expire before the original message, but because the
original sender's expiration setting is always honored, you cannot extend
the life of the conversation by setting a later expiration.
There are some
minor glitches that you must be aware of in Disappearing Email's
known issue. First, it may not work correctly if your Internet connection
is using a proxy server or firewalls that perform http validation.
Second, when Word is set as the email editor in Microsoft
Outlook, you cannot send Disappearing Email. Finally, HTML and
rich text message formatting cannot be preserved inside the Disappearing
With email, we
sometimes use language very loosely, but it should be understood that we
should not use this "disappearing" email technology illegally
or to hurt someone's feelings by sending misleading information or bad
words. The point is, because we are making this powerful technology so
publicly available we need to protect the community and ourselves from
any abuse. As new technology comes into being, it is up to everyone to
manage how they are applied so that everyone can benefit.
After you read this article, you will be able to breathe easier in the knowledge that your hasty email's thoughts will not come back to haunt you at some far distant point in the future after using the new products from Disappearing, Inc.