by Julie Hanson

Company to Watch: Sigaba, for Your Eyes Only

Dec 01, 20024 mins
IT Strategy

Electronic communication has gone from merely a convenient way to send short notes among business associates to a method of transmitting financial statements, boardroom decisions, legal documents and even extremely personal health-care material. But with standard e-mail, no one can ever be sure that those crucial attachments and confidential data are being read by only the intended recipient.

Sigaba, however, has an alternative. Its products use “key server” technologies to secure messages through easily downloadable plug-ins for desktop users and Web decryption technologies. Use the tools, Sigaba claims, and you can be sure that your information will be secure.

Sigaba was founded by Robert E. Cook, now acting chairman and CEO, who is a man familiar with the role of leading a startup. Cook’s other ventures include Web services company Gainskeeper; Systems Center, which sold to Sterling Software; and the supply chain software company WebMethods. The company takes its name from the Sigaba encryption machine used by the United States during World War II, the only device of its kind that was never compromised by an enemy.

Sigaba’s products have the same goal in mind. But while some highly secure products require users to deal with multiple passwords, key cards, biometrics, and multiple steps between creation and delivery, Sigaba integrates seamlessly into most popular e-mail applications such as Microsoft Outlook. The biggest change users may see is the addition of a Send Securely button. On the receiving end, users who have already downloaded Sigaba’s plug-in decryption technology merely open the message like any other. Anyone without the plug-in gets walked through authentication via an HTML attachment.

Sigaba’s products can be installed in less than 10 minutes, and administrators can choose between systemwide gateway security or individual desktop protection. Information never leaves a machine during the encryption process, and from everyone else’s point of view, it looks like a regular e-mail. Sigaba can secure information sent via RIM BlackBerry messaging devices, and its Statement Delivery product can securely send bank statements, lab reports or brokerage statements in HTML format.

Affordability is also key during a time when security is a must?but so is pleasing the CFO. Sigaba’s applications package lists at $50,000 for 100-user installations, which includes gateway protection and as many plug-ins as you want. To secure 500 users, the price jumps to around $60,000.

But Sigaba is not without competition, says Joyce Graff, vice president and research director of e-mail at Gartner. Graff estimates that there are at least 100 companies in this market that have been slow to ramp up, but are now on the move because of security and privacy legislature, pending Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations and a general desire by executives to better secure electronic communication. “There a lot of people in the secure messaging space, and a lot are very small and very hungry,” says Graff.

But according to Graff, Sigaba is on the right path. The key to succeeding in this tight market is to create a secure e-mail product that is easy to install, easy to use and secure enough to protect. Graff claims that Sigaba’s Secure E-mail has been able to do just that.

And Sigaba is already securing significant clients, such as Cascade Bank, Citiwide Banks, Lancaster General Hospital and Siemens. Jon Zimmerman, vice president of eHealth at Siemens, evaluated half a dozen companies before he decided Sigaba would be the company he recommends to his clients. “We went through a significant search to determine that Sigaba has technology that was adoptable and useful, and supported the increasing regulatory environment of health care,” says Zimmerman.

Some of the top five hospitals in the country are beta testing Sigaba, according to Zimmerman, who says the products’ ability to adapt to the user’s environment, cost factor and ease of use are what puts them over the top.