Open Xchange Launches Simple Email Encryption

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OX Guard, part of the OX App Suite, helps users protect their messages with a single click

German developer of open source productivity software, Open Xchange, has launched an email encryption product that can secure messages with a single click.

Called OX Guard, the new tool is an integral part of the OX App Suite – a carrier-grade cloud platform that includes OX Text, OX Spreadsheet and OX Drive, as well as email server, calendar and social network feeds.

Open Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna told TechWeek that one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of encryption is complexity, so OX Guard was designed to be as simple to use as possible – users just need to click the padlock icon, set the password and their messages will be protected by AES encryption.

Simple truths

Open Xchange was established back in 2005 to provide a Linux-based, open source alternative to Microsoft Exchange server software. In April 2013, the company released OX Text, the first component of OX Documents, created by some of the key members of the OpenOffice development team.

ox+textOX Spreadsheet was launched in April 2014, and OX Presentations – a similar application that aims to compete with Microsoft’s PowerPoint – is currently in development. The OX App Suite is sold as a ‘white label’ solution, with customers able to add their own branding and features. In the UK, such customers include Virgin Media and hosting provider 123-reg.

From today, the platform also includes OX Guard encryption – users can simply click the padlock icon to protect their messages and attachments against unauthorised access. The tool relies on PGP libraries and an RSA Public/Private key pair, so the emails are secure both on the server and while in transit.

Messages are automatically decrypted to plain text for users on the same domain, but recipients don’t need an OX Suite account to read them – they can ask the sender for a password to receive access to a hosted version of the email.

OX Guard does not require any external plugins and runs on any device that supports a modern browser – this includes smartphones and tablets. Users can also retract their emails, or set the message to ‘self-destruct’ after a specified period of time.

“It’s for everybody,” told us Laguna. “With consumerisation of IT, if you make it work for consumer, if you make it easy enough for everyone to use it, then it will also work inside companies.”

Data encryption is becoming increasingly important – not just because it improves security, but also because it can reassure the public shocked by the indiscriminate data collection practices of government agencies like NSA and GCHQ. Soon after Edward Snowden started publishing the secret intelligence documents, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft had all promised to encrypt their services.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has recently fined the Ministry of Justice £180,000 for its failure to teach the staff how to use hardware encryption properly.

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