Government Cafcass service uses encrypted messaging for all sensitive email

Reveals use of Egress secure messaging service ongoing for nearly two years

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The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has revealed that it has been using an encrypted messaging system from Egress Software to secure sensitive emails for almost two years.

The organisation, which has the role of supporting children going through adoption or the family justice system, started deploying the system in August 2013 on an unlimited enterprise license and it was now in use by more than 2,000 clients, it said.

Cafcass had previously used the Criminal Justice Secure email service but that only allowed secure communications between professional using the system and imposed some limitations on mailbox size. Communication to members of the public including children and parents, as well as to some external organisations, had been through the postal service, which reduced the speed and security of distribution.

Migrating to the Egress Software Switch had made it possible to combine secure communications under one system that staff could use at their discretion from Microsoft Outlook according to pre-defined guidelines.

“Every year Cafcass advocates for over 140,000 children and young people in family courts throughout England. The nature of this work means that we often deal with information that is sensitive and that we wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands,” Cafcass IT change manger, Jonathan Boshell.

“However, we are increasingly sending information by email, as this is quicker and more convenient for the families and agencies we work with,” he said.

Using Egress also helped the organisation meet the demands both of ICO advice on encrypting data in transit as well as at rest and move towards the government’s Digital by Default Service Standard.

“Switch Secure Email is the only email encryption product and service with CESG Commercial Product Assurance (CPA) certification and Pan Government Accreditation (PGA). As such, it is the most suitable choice for securing the information classified as OFFICIAL that our Family Courts Advisors (FCAs) need to send.”

Sent through a cloud gateway, the recipient of a message sent via the Egress Software Switch doesn’t have to be using encryption software, requiring only the setting of a password. This overcomes a traditional stumbling block with encryption technology when extended beyond the confines of a single organisation.

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some reluctance from members of the public to using an unfamiliar system.

“When Cafcass emails arrived encrypted, we met with some initial resistance amongst a few recipients. However, once the simplicity of using Switch and its information security benefits had been explained, we have seen a positive uptake in third party users,” said Cafcass information assurance officer, Emily Halliday.

“We went for the big bang approach. Our staff came in one day and they could see the Egress system,” said her colleague, Boshell.

Egress was now the default method but staff could opt out for emails deemed not to be sensitive.

In March, Egress revealed another public sector customer for the same encryption platform, Flintshire Council in Wales.