German web app provider Open-Xchange have today released OX Guard, as part of their email services, which allows users to send encrypted messages to any receiver, even if they do not use compatible encryption software.
Open-Xchange offers cloud-based communication software, as well as file-sharing and storage options such as their Google Docs alternative, OX Docs. These services are mainly used by businesses, however as they are free and open source, any user can install them onto their own servers.
With the new OX Guard encryption service, Open-Xchange users will be able to encrypt any of their emails by simply checking a box, with no need to download separate software. All encryption coding is created, stored and managed on their server. The software can be hosted and controlled on any machine, and as it is open source, the encryption keys can be easily inspected for any backdoors or bugs.
“Users can decide who they trust,” said Rafael Laguna, CEO at Open-Xchange. “If they trust no one, they can run it themselves.”
What makes this new software particularly different however, is its ability to send encrypted messages to a receiver who is not using a compatible guard system. The recipients of these messages receive two emails, one with a web address to access the message, and another with a single-use passcode to log into the Open-Xchange server. This means that if the message has been hacked, the recipient will be made aware as the password will have changed.
Another feature of the OX Guard tool is the use of different coding to protect each individual email. Therefore, if one message is intercepted this does not mean that the hacker will be able to decrypt other messages from the same user.
Laguna admits that although the new encryption service is a big step for securing open source communication, it is still a long way off being perfect. “It’s like driving without a seat belt or airbags, because they’re too complicated,” he said. “So we decided by starting with just seat belts, because they provide pretty good safety.”