Erie-based Blacksquare Technologies LLC founder Bob Fleming says his startup is in the process of raising $1 million to begin production of a USB-compatible device that will allow users to easily encrypt the files they store on their computers and in the cloud or that they send in emails.
The Enigma, which will retail for $129 for the consumer model and $199 for the enterprise model, plugs into the USB drive on any computer and acts as a key management tool. If files on a computer are encrypted with Enigma, they can’t be accessed without the Enigma being plugged in and the password to those files.
In addition, the Enigma recognizes any storage device connected to the computer, whether the cloud or a USB thumb drive, and can encrypt and decrypt the password-protected files on those devices.
If, say, you want to share a select encrypted file in your cloud storage app with someone, that person can get access by plugging in his own Enigma and having the password to that file.
One of the big targets for Blacksquare is the notebook. Fleming said files on such devices can be encrypted with other products now. But if they’re lost or stolen, even though the files are protected, they still must be re-created. The Enigma allows users to store files in the cloud so that they can access them from any device that has a USB port as long as the user has the Enigma and password.
A marketsandmarkets.com report last year predicted that the hardware encryption market will be $167 billion by 2018. There are other products in the space now, such as encryption thumb drives that store encrypted data on a USB drive. But they can be expensive and again have the risk factor of being lost. The Enigma stores no data but simply acts as a key. If your Enigma is lost, you replace it and have instant access to your encrypted files again.
Fleming said the Enigma’s advantage over some of the better software encryption products on the market is that software encryption keys and passwords are resident in the operating system or hard drive of a computer, making them vulnerable to hackers.
Fleming, a self-described “product visionary,” co-founded online advertising platform TruEffect in 2002 before spending time at Seagate and Enova Technology. He began working on the Enigma in 2010 and founded Blacksquare a year ago, gradually assembling a team of about eight other people who either advise or work on the project part time.
Fleming has so far put only his own funds into the company, declining to say the actual amount. He said the $1 million the company is looking to raise would be used to fine-tune the device, begin manufacturing and selling the consumer product while continuing to develop and test the enterprise model.
“A lot of things are coming to a head,” Fleming said.
Fleming said the consumer model is production ready, having already achieved its NIST Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certification, and could be on the market within a couple of months of landing funding.
The enterprise product, Fleming said, would be built to complement and support enterprise software security programs like McAfee.
“We’re not trying to take away from the software,” Fleming said. “We’re trying to enhance the software by providing an additional layer of security.”