In 1997, I decided after 15 years as a practicing CPA that it was time to put down my pencil and explore a new venture on the exciting new internet which, while perhaps not exactly in its infancy at that point, was still at least a pimply faced teenaged medium still unexplored by most accountants.
I founded CPAsites.com and made a life for myself and a few other employees by designing and managing websites for CPA firms across the country. We had no competition in the early, heady days of the late 90's and were able to quickly secure a name for ourselves by offering quality sites to quality firms.
Since 1997 however, the internet has grown from a pimply faced teenaged medium to a...well, goliath-sized pimply faced teenaged medium. I can recall getting my first spam messages in the early days of email and like everyone else, I thought they were "kinda' neat" in the way that my teenage daughters think college mail is "kinda' neat."
As a website developer in 2005 however, spam has become the bane of my existence. Invariably, once a week, we get a call or email from a CPA exasperated by the volume of spam email he or she is receiving and, also invariably, we - or the website we host for the accountant - gets the blame. "Please remove all of our email addresses off the site!" they proclaim with finality.
So much for the golden age of instant internet communication at your fingertips. Dutifully, we would comply with their requests and it wasn't until I endeavored to solve another common CPA complaint that I stumbled on the perfect solution for email theft.
For several years, the second most common complaint coming from my CPA clients was concerning an easy way to have clients email them securely from their website. After we explain to them the intricacies of password management and secure logins, they immediately dropped their security plans. They, like everyone else on the internet, suffer from "password fatigue" and weren't about to subject their clients to learning and remembering yet another password just to send their CPA some tax information.
About a year ago, we finally decided there SHOULD be an easy way to just click on a website or email link and download a person's encryption key so that you can email encrypted documents to the individual. We searched. There wasn't. Seeing a critical need not only for our CPA clients, but also for attorneys, physicians and other financial professionals, we called an encryption programmer, gave him our idea and said "do it."
The result is CipherSend.com which began selling in March of 2005 for $19.95. As the encryption programmers promised, it works perfectly for what we needed (click the button, encrypt anything and send it with no password), but imagine our surprise when we realized it also solved an even bigger problem - spambots stealing our clients' email addresses!
When our clients replace their email addresses with CipherSend buttons, spambot crawlers are stopped in their tracks. The button-owner's email address is stored on our secure server, not on his or her public website. Needless to say, both we and our clients were rather delighted that a "side effect" of the program was even better than the intended cure!
The service is ideally suited for professionals and physicians who can now quickly and easily receive secure documents from clients, associates and patients at their standard email address without the inconvenience of giving out passwords or secure logins, but it is also finding a huge market among millions of aggravated spam victims needing to replace an email address posted on a public website or included in the coding of a contact form.
CipherSend offers advantages over standard website email or contact forms with its spam-block security and double notification to site visitors when their email has been delivered and again when it is opened by the recipient. Despite the low price, CipherSend uses sophisticated 2048-bit RSA asymmetrical (two-key) encryption algorithms with maximum key length and meets government security regulations required in the healthcare industry for the transfer of patient medical information.
Since messages and documents are encrypted right on the sender's computer with a downloaded public key and decrypted by the recipient's private key, CipherSend represents true end-to-end security. A demo of the button can be found on the CipherSend.com website and the program has a 30 day free trial membership.
Generally, "the law of unintended consequences" is a nightmare scenario for people introducing a new product or service on the market, but for this fortunate CPA, "two birds with one stone" just took on new meaning and made my life a whole lot less stressful!
Jeffery N Drake, CPA, MBA