New BYOD Threat: Email That Self-DestructsEmployees who bring apps like Wickr to work could bypass enterprise security systems.
The possibility of employees dropping company secrets into Dropbox already worries IT managers, but at least such actions leave behind a trail that can be traced. What happens when employees send messages to each other and to others outside the organization that are deleted by default?
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A popular app called Snapchat allows users to text self-destructing photos in real time. A similar app called Wickr takes the concept to the next level. Launched six months ago, Wickr lets users share more than just photos -- they can send encrypted multimedia messages that self-destruct after a set amount of time.
[ For more lessons learned on BYOD security, see Close The BYOD Security Hole. ]
With Wickr, you can send voice, text and audio messages, all of which delete themselves after a period of time. The app encrypts everything and it also scrubs content from the file system, making it hard for anybody to know what was sent or if anything was sent.
Wickr, which already has downloaded hundreds of thousands of times from the Apple store, offers some useful features -- for example, it provides a convenient way for journalists to communicate with sources anonymously. The Wickr app is free, but the company also offers a service that lets users send messages to groups of people. Wickr targets the messaging market, which includes apps such as WhatsApp and Voxer.
"BYOD is sweeping over the enterprise. Wickr is a way for people to have private communications on their phone without anyone seeing [them]," said Nico Sell, co-founder of Wickr and an organizer of Defcon, the largest hacker conference in the world. "We are flipping messaging on [its] head."
The industry is going to see a shift, predicted Sell. "You are going to think about how long you want something to live before you send it: [Some] kinds of messages need to live for seven years. [Other] kinds of messages -- to your spouse [for example] -- should disappear right way and not be archived."
Having that control is the main idea behind Wickr, Sell said. She has surmised from customer reviews and emails that Wickr is popular with doctors and lawyers who use it to communicate with patients and clients, and she hopes more consumers will take Wickr to the workplace. "We think of ourselves as a consumer company, and [we] are going after consumers," she said. "We give power to the people ... through anonymous free speech."