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Secure delivery of transactional e-mails from Voltage.

InfoSecurity Europe : 03 April, 2008  (Technical Article)
Media Group turns to Voltage to provide secure e-mail based mechanism for the transmission and secure delivery of statements and other financial documents.
Conducting business online is nothing new, but one aspect of the customer/business relationship that has been largely immune from digitisation in many industries is statement delivery via email. The reason, in a word, is security. Online purchasing and other browser-based transactions can be secured using encryption systems such as secure sockets layer, so buying and selling online is viable, safe and easy. However, the lack of a similar enabling technology for email—an encryption system that is easy-to-use and workable for all kinds of computer users—has forced many organisations that regularly send out statements containing sensitive financial or health information to stick with conventional paper-based mail. Until now.

One of Europe's major media companies recently introduced a secure electronic statement delivery service that helped it to not only improve customer service but also dramatically lowered its costs of doing business. Spurred by competitors that were testing similar services, the media conglomerate saw electronic statement delivery as a way to increase convenience for its customers. But to put in place such a service it had to overcome unique issues and challenges. "We are chartered by the government, and consequently we serve virtually every person in the country, or more accurately, every household," explained one of the firm's senior IT security officers. This affiliation brought certain constraints that private businesses might more easily avoid.

The company produces and broadcasts an enormous variety of news, sports and entertainment content, and supports its programming efforts through an annual license fee. Once a year, every home in the country receives a statement outlining fees for the coming 12 months. Upon payment, the company then mails out another statement acknowledging receipt and granting a "license" for the year. "Both these mailings contain information that is considered regulated under the country's data privacy laws," said the security officer. "As such, in devising an electronic statement delivery service, we not only had to find a way to encrypt email messages, but do so in a way that anyone in the country could easily access and read their statement." This requirement meant that any system it put in place would have to be capable of working with all kinds of computer environments and email software, and not require download or installation of a new client.

After testing several encryption systems, company privacy and IT security staff found that the Electronic Statement Delivery solution from Voltage was the only one that met all its criteria. "With a nationwide subscriber base, usability is by far the most important aspect of getting people to accept and use a new system," explained the security officer. "Voltage clearly is far easier to use than any other email encryption system on the market. Regardless of email software or computing platform, all our subscribers can receive electronic statements. The avid response we're seeing tells us that many of our subscribers were eager to make the switch from paper to email."

Subscribers can sign up for electronic statement delivery from the company's dedicated licensing website. Transitioning to email delivery takes just a few clicks, and also makes it easier for subscribers to pay their license fee online using direct debit. By automating these aspects of its customer service processes, the media giant is realizing significant decrease in costs, and expects to see much more as licensees change over from paper.

"Return on investment was not our primary concern in providing electronic statement delivery, customer service was," asserted the security officer. "Even so, we were not unaware that automating the process could cut our costs. Here again, Voltage's superior ease of use pays off because the more widespread the acceptance of electronic delivery, the greater our savings."

Early estimates in the wake of the system launch place savings per statement in the range of 18 cents, which means the Voltage solution could cut the company's cost for statement delivery by nearly 25%. Every month, the company sends out approximately 2 million statements, adding up to a total of around 24 million annually. At 78 cents per statement in printing, labor and postage costs, the overall expense approaches $19 million annually. Shaving 18 cents per license statement off this total could potentially reduce outlays by $4.5 million per year.

"The amount of money we can save with Voltage Electronic Statement Delivery is way beyond what we thought was possible," admitted the security officer. "A technology investment that cuts costs by 25 percent is going to pay for itself in short order, and keep driving savings on an ongoing basis. Like in the early days of the Internet, Voltage is fundamentally changing the way we do business because it makes life easier for our subscribers, lowers our operating costs and helps us boost our reputation for delivering the highest standards of customer service."

Voltage uses a breakthrough approach in cryptography known as Identity- Based Encryption (IBE), which employs a simple identity such as an email address as the public key in a public/private key pair. Because IBE does not require the use of certificates, it has none of the usability and management problems inherent in conventional cryptographic solutions that rely on public key infrastructure. In fact, Voltage is a stateless system, meaning that keys and messages are not stored on the Voltage server. The benefits of this approach are manifold:.

* Encrypted messages can be sent, received and read using existing infrastructure and software.
* Only one backup is required for the life of system; the entire system can be recovered from single piece of data in minutes, whether 20 users or 20 million.
* There is no need for key backup or disaster recovery infrastructure.
* The system can easily scale for many millions of users.
* Administrators can decrypt messages at any point in the future, fully supporting retention policies and facilitating audits.
* Strong encryption of all email traffic in transit ensures compliance with privacy legislation.

In addition, Voltage Electronic Statement Delivery incorporates innovative anti-phishing technology that ensures that statement recipients are not vulnerable to email scams. The solution uses personalized images within messages, much like with online banking services, so recipients see the same image within the message whenever they receive their statements through secure email. If the image is not present, the recipient immediately knows that the message is not secure, and could possibly be fraudulent.

A major European media conglomerate wanted to improve its customer services by providing its subscriber base with electronic statement delivery in replacement of paper-based communications. The primary challenge to instituting such a service was ensuring the security of the statements when sent via email, in compliance with pertinent privacy laws. Deploying the Voltage Electronic Statement Delivery solution, the media company was able to integrate encryption into its emails to customers in an elegant, and very easy to use way. In addition, the fiscal benefits of automating a labor-intensive paper-based process are saving the company substantial amounts of money. The Voltage system employs IBE-based technology, which offers numerous benefits over conventional PKI-based encryption systems, and ensures protection from email fraud.

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