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Send Ultra-Secure, Self-Destructing E-mail with Vanish

Last Updated Sep 18, 2009 10:56 AM EDT

How does the government prosecute corporate cases that happened over a span of years? By poring over e-mails preserved, essentially forever, on servers across the Internet. Face it: Everything you say, write, or do online is going to be discoverable long after dogs achieve sentience and enslave us. That's why it's worth taking a look at Vanish, a tool that utterly destroys email after a short time.

Vanish seems sort of like something a spy might use, but it's something you can use today to send messages to anyone and be absolutely certain that they will evaporate from the Internet within about 8 hours.

You can use the Web-based demonstration platform to get a sense of how it works. Type your message and click Create Vanish Message. After a moment, you'll get a block of text that you can e-mail someone. They need to return to the Web site, paste the text, and decrypt it. But wait too long, and the text becomes impossible to decrypt.

If you're sufficiently intrigued, you can install the Firefox plug-in so you don't have to rely on the Web site.

Vanish is just a research project right now, but it actually works, and is a tantalizing preview of the kind of security tech that could lie ahead. It works by storing the encryption key using Bittorrent. By the very nature of Bittorrent, the data fades away without a trace after 8 hours. (Or longer, depending upon how the tool is configured.)

What do you think? Does Vanish excite you at the possibility of better, more secure, more trustworthy communication, or does it give you the willies at the thought of all the evil that can be done with a tool like this?

Oh, and while we're on the subject, be sure to check ot our calvacade of e-mail tips, tricks, and recommended utilities.