14. August 2013–
Thanks to Edward Snowden, the question of internet security is one currently raised across the globe. While US-based online platforms are facing a significant amount of users leaving their services, the NSA scandal has also been a godsend for some providers, who have seen a rush of new customers.
After each new exposé on NSA surveillance is published on German news sites Spiegel or Bild, “another few hundred users register plop in”, Cristian Mudure said. He’s the founder of encrypted communications platform Stackfield, which launched a year ago and recently came out of closed beta.
Encryption: the way of the future?
Mudure has noticed a considerable increase in the number of calls he’s been getting from tax advisors and consulting firms that want to make sure their data or information on yet-to-be-launched products are secure. Data sent on Stackfield is encrypted with the user and then stored in so-called “stacks”, which means that individual data packets can’t be linked to a particular user. “Theoretically, it could all still be decoded, but that can take years,” Mudure explained.
Although it’s mostly small and mid-sized businesses that are using Stackfield, the company is currently in talks with a “large German logistics service” and a car association. It has even been used as a secure chat platform. Plug-and-play solutions, similar to the one offered by Stackfield, mean that customers can create things they’re not able to build using their own IT.
Customer demand is high
The need for secure communications networks is definitely there – the system currently used by some companies sounds rather archaic. Mudure’s customers have told him that “data is burnt individually onto CDs and sent per courier, it’s then processed, burnt again and finally sent by courier back”, he said.
Could companies like Stackfield mean we’ll see a long-term change in data security demand? Mudure is ambivalent. At the moment, the only people who are shocked by the NSA revelations are those that haven’t really dealt with the topic prior to the scandal, he said. If international providers suddenly change their focus to emphasise security at the expense of other aspects of their main service, they may find their customers quickly disappear.
However, it’s safe to say US providers have lost a lot of overseas business due to security scares, which Mudure said will stay like that. He thinks that’s because the legal framework in other countries such as Germany is not as “paranoia-driven as in the US”. What he’s getting at is this: Not every country has such a huge fear of terrorist attacks that its secret service needs to go through backdoors to get the information they desire.
Translated by Michelle Kuepper