Flintshire County Council in North Wales is deploying an encrypted email system that will make it possible to secure messages sent to recipients both inside and outside the organisation.
The Council’s current messaging platform is Lotus Notes, into which the new Egress Software Switch system integrates using a single button and a drop-down list of encryption options. This desktop setting is then enforced through a gateway.
Implementation started a year ago and has now been rolled out to 200 employees in specific job roles with the number set to rise over time.
The Council said the need for enhanced email security had grown as more and more sensitive communications were happening over email, both with citizens and other agencies. An assessment of the organisation’s secure data and sharing policy in 2013 had decided that this required greater use of encryption.
Another influencing factor was the use of the Switch platform across other local authorities in Wales, which presented the possibility of integration.
“Not only does Switch fit in with the wider secure information sharing policy across the region, it is also suited to our internal infrastructure,” said Flintshire IT Information Manager, Alun Kime.
“Switch integrates with IBM Lotus Notes and can also be used via the web client, making it suitable for our present email environment.”
The Council declined to reveal how messaging was secured prior to the investment in Switch, preferring not to name specific vendors. However, the Council is moving from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, a platform that will allow better secure large file transfer among other features.
“We have had excellent support from Egress Software Technologies throughout the project, including account management, onsite visits when required, the Egress Customer Service helpdesk and technical articles on the Egress website,” commented Kime.
The use of email encryption presents challenges, starting with usability, not always a strong point for such systems. In the case of Switch, an advantage is that there is no need to manage third-party credentials such as keys. Messages are sent through the gateway to a cloud service which allows authenticated invites users to access the service and read the email.
Other features include the ability to revoke access after a message has been sent, placing time and date restrictions on secure messages and attachments and an audit trail.
One slight downside of the security-as a-service model is that recipients need to authenticate to receive messages which means they must have or set up an account. For practical reasons this might limit the ability to send email to some members of the public.