Two companies' products protect security by self-destructing

Published 4 October 2006

VaporStream offers a Web-based e-mail service that leaves no trace once the message is read; copying, archiving, and forwarding are impossible; Philips applies for a patent on a tamperproof MRAM chip that wipes itself out if opened

This e-mail newsletter will self-destruct in ten seconds. Actually it will not, but new technology by Void Communications could certainly permit it. The company’s Web-based VaporStream service puts an end to e-mail security concerns by sending messages that cannot be archived, recorded, copied, or printed. Once the receipent replies to the email it is automatically purged from the system, leaving behind no recoverable evidence of either its content or it existence. Companies concerned about privacy and leaving a documentary trail of internal communications may find this useful, but there is great concern that terrorists may use it as well. Tracing and recovering email has been an important counter-terrorism tool, but al Qaeda terrorists have shown great sophistication since 9/11 in avoiding some of the more obvious technological tripfalls. The system costs $40 a year ($5 a year for each additional user in enterprise installations).

VaporStream is not the only company in the self-destruct business. A new patent application by Philips describes a Magnetic Random Access Memory (MRAM) chip that renders itself inoperable when tampered with. MRAM, billed as a successor to flash memory, stores data on a stack on thin layers of film, but if the chip were pried open these layers could be easily read with the proper equipment. Philips’s solution is to wrap the film stack in a soft-metal sheet topped with a magnet. As long as the wrapper is intact, flux from the magnet is maintained in a closed loop away from the chip. When the wrapper is broken, however, magnetic flux breaks out and erases the chip memory entirely.

-read more about VaporStream in this news report; see company Web site; read Philips’s patent application