CHANTILLY, Va. -- Rifat Ikram had been thinking about securing e-mail for a while now, well before the Red Flag rules made such measures mandatory.
And the vice president of electronic delivery and support services at Justice Federal Credit Union figured if the encryption appliance he selected was good enough for the agencies making the rules, it ought to work for his institution, too.
The $444 million credit union is now a client of ZixCorp, using the Dallas-based company's appliances and secure servers in a SaaS (software-as-a-service) environment to secure outgoing communications.
"We've been trying to implement an encryption solution here for the past three years, and it didn't matter to us if the regulations were coming or not," Ikram said. "One of the major risks in financial institutions is what people do all the time--e-mailing documents, and sometimes they unintentionally send out things they shouldn't."
After looking around, Ikram and his colleagues decided on the ZixCorp encryption service. The fact that the five major regulatory agencies involved in the FFIEC use the service, according to ZixCorp, along with about 100 other credit unions and a number of state regulatory agencies, didn't hurt.
"It's very simple and affordable" Ikram said. "I helped install one of the appliances before, and it took about four or five hours to set it up and create the rules and put the servers in place. After that, it just runs by itself, pretty much."
The ZixCorp offering basically comes in two parts, said Dena Bauckman, the company's director of product management for e-mail encryption services. It inspects outgoing e-mails and encrypts anything that contains personal information such as account numbers.
Those e-mails then require the use of the Zix-installed and, in this case, credit union-provided private key to access the message at a secured Web site. A public key, meanwhile, gives access to the ZixDirectory, an e-mail encryption directory the company said is the largest in the world.
The ZixDirectory has more than 11 million protected addresses and adds about 70,000 new ones a week, the company said.
Once connected to the directory users send and receive e-mails to each other without having to use encryption keys. "That's how we get transparency between customers," Bauckman said. Recipients not on the directory get e-mails sending them to the secured site to get the mail.
The service comes in handy in a variety of ways, including document management and mortgage lending, Ikram said. "One of our members in California just bought a house, and instead of having to print 72 pages and sending them across the country, we just e-mailed the whole document to him, encrypted and secure."
And since the primary regulatory agencies, along with big trade groups, use the ZixDirectory, exchanging e-mails with them also is seamless, Ikram said, citing as an example back-and-forth e-mails with an analyst at CUNA.
Justice FCU is one of about 900 clients of ZixCorp using the gateway appliance, while another set of customers use the company's individual desktop application, Bauckman said.
Individual users can include people the credit union deals with on a daily basis, Ikram said. "If I need to have constant back-and-forth e-mail contact with our lawyer, we can give him a license to so he doesn't have to go back and forth through the Web site to get the mail."
He also figures his credit union saved about $5,000 in courier and stationery costs in the first year of use, savings he said he expects to increases as more members and business partners come aboard.
"President Kennedy said we would put a man on the moon and safely bring him back. That's what Zix does. It sends e-mail out and safely brings it back," Ikram said.