Looking back to the year 2000 just after it-systems worldwide had survived the transition into the new millennium without the widely feared crash, the ‘dotcom-bubble’ had burst and shook the New Economy. At the same time, the Bluetooth-standard had its first appearance in consumer products, and Microsoft published its operating system ‘Windows 2000’. It was at that time that Dominik Lehr founded the company Befine Solutions AG in Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany.
It started with an idea. His experience in the IT-world illuminated a universal problem in the business world: There was no easy way for companies to exchange messages and large files in a simple, fast, and secure way with suppliers, customers or partners.
The focus of his research was on e-mail which had established itself as the universal way for communication in the business world. His goal was to find a way to enhance the technology of the e-mail systems so widely used, whilst getting rid of its’ known disadvantages and using it in a cost efficient, controlled, and secure way.
E-Mail is dead, long live the e-mail!
Dominik’s realisation identified a universal problem that was found across all industries in small and mid-sized companies as well as large enterprises. On the one hand e-mail was and is a universally accepted standard for communications, easy to use and globally available. Every user with a computer, smartphone, or tablet-pc can communicate with any other regardless of the device, operating system, or e-mail application.
On the other hand, today’s standards and demands, especially for security often go far beyond emails existing capabilities. Almost every company or authority must exchange confidential files electronically – and often even the written messages in e-mails are of a sensitive nature and should be protected. It is at this point that security concerns come into play: e-mail systems are a prime target of attack for criminals, hackers, and industrial espionage. Nine out of ten cyber-attacks start with an e-mail!
Just like a digital postcard
e-mail and its downsides
Taking a close look at how e-mail works, it’s nothing more than a digital postcard: it’s cheap and quickly delivered, its content, however, is readable for everyone who carries or intercepts it, and whilst it usually arrives, you do not know the route it has taken.
In addition, the sheer amount and size of e-mail attachments unnecessarily strains the email systems in companies. Often attachments surpass manageable sizes, create excessive cost – and are in many cases confidential.
Examples of such attachments are contracts, patient files in clinics, case files from court, or construction drawings of automotive suppliers.
Typically, they also include PowerPoint presentations, PDF files with graphs, spreadsheets, or even video files.
It is in particular those large digital files that can’t be sent or received via e-mail and are rejected that lead employees and other stakeholders to use other means to exchange files.
Products like USB sticks, file-sharing solutions, or cloud-services, which they know from private use are readily available.
The result: the frequently invoked ‘Shadow-IT’ – the unwanted use of non-authorised software and tools in companies to exchange data.
The key to success
Complex file transfer and e-mail encryption solutions try to eliminate those risks. However, they often fail at striking a balance between security, usability, and cost.
Even though there are effective and established encryption methods that can be used for e-mail they lack three basic demands:
- They usually involve complicated acquisition and set-up of public and private keys, and therefore cannot be used ad-hoc between two communication partners.
- There is little focus on usability for the average office user or private customer. Many solutions are too complicated to use and therefore are not used at all.
- Finally, many solutions carry very high purchasing costs as well as maintenance costs.
The answer to all those challenges is Cryptshare – a digital communications solution for secure exchange of information. With it e-mails and files of any size can be exchanged ad-hoc – easily and securely, with auditability and at low cost. Cryptshare is easy to set up and is immediately available. The intuitive user interface and direct integration in existing applications makes it a workable and user-friendly solution.
The process is deliberately kept simple: the recipient is notified via e-mail that a transfer is available for them. Separately they receive a unique password from the sender. With this they can then download the messages and files directly and securely from the server that is located at the sender’s company. Since the system works without user accounts there is no registration needed for either sender or recipient.
This has two advantages: The data is protected from unwanted external access, and it is possible to send much larger files than via common e-mail. The system can handle messages and attachments of sizes of multiple gigabytes while most e-mail systems are limited to just a few megabytes per transfer. Today however a simple image file can amount up to 5 MB, and PowerPoint presentations containing images or even videos can easily reach 50 MB, CAD files multiple gigabytes.
Cryptshare offers complete auditability across all in and outgoing transfers. It offers clear and understandable notifications for the sender about when the e-mail and files were sent and delivered to the intended recipient. With all this and further functions it helps companies to meet compliance rules and regulations.
Using the metaphor from above: whilst a common e-mail can be compared to a postcard, Cryptshare is a custom sized package that is delivered by a personal courier. With this the team realised the objective of overcoming the shortcomings of the e-mail whilst building on its advantages. The approach was to group the right technologies and functions around the e-mail to rid this ‘most-used’ communication method of its weaknesses.
A method that companies had already invested massive amounts in but couldn’t live up to the requirements of today’s business world. Until now with Cryptshare.
Cryptshare in figures
satisfied users worldwide
Made in Germany
Geared for growth
the company today
A lot has happened at Befine Solutions since the team started its project. At first it was meant to be a custom-made software for a single blue-chip client. Today this German software-house from the Black-Forest area develops and sells solutions to companies world-wide that helps them support, optimize, and protect their business processes.
Cryptshare Version 1.0 was shipped to the first customer in 2007. In 2010 Befine Solutions created a dedicated sales team for Cryptshare and started cooperating with the first trading partners. Since then the number of customers is steadily growing and today there are more than 2.5 million certified Cryptshare users in more than 30 countries worldwide.
Not only is the software a growing success, but also the company behind it grows continuously: currently over 40 employees are working at Befine Solutions and the number keeps increasing. Due to this the company will move to a bigger office in Freiburg at the end of 2017 to make room for new colleagues to join. Here the development and the support (national and international) team will be located that make up more than half of the staff.
Along with Dominik who is responsible for the strategic alignment and running the operating business, the leadership team consists of joint CEO Mark Forrest who takes care of commercial planning and internationalisation, and CTO Matthias Kess who has been in charge of product development and support since 2007.
awards and international growth
The year 2017 has been a good one so far for the software developer from Freiburg: On the one hand, it was honoured with the ‘Cybersecurity Excellence Award 2017’ in the category of ‘E-mail Security’. The annual award is given to companies, individuals, or products from all over the world that are contributing exceptionally to the field of data security.
On the other hand, those positive events are accompanied by international growth. In spring 2017 a subsidiary was founded in the United States. A regional sales team in Boston brings Cryptshare as an IT-solution ‘Made in Germany’ to the American market. Further offices in Great Britain and the Netherlands have been established earlier on and are steadily contributing to the international success.
Foundation of Connect Software AG by Dominik Lehr as a service provider for specialist bespoke software
Shipping of Cryptshare Version 1.0
Renaming to Befine Solutions AG, start of a dedicated Cryptshare sales team, cooperation with first distribution partners
Opening of sales offices in Great Britain and the Netherlands
Market launch of Cryptshare for Outlook (now Cryptshare for Office 365 & Outlook) and Cryptshare for Notes
Cryptshare is in use in over 20 countries and available in numerous languages
Cryptshare V3.0 comes out with many new features and an enhanced administration-interface
Launch of Cryptshare for Outlook v2.0 with new functionality and user-centred interface design
‘Cybersecurity Excellence Award‘ in the category of ‘E-Mail-Security’
Launch of the protective e-mail classification, as well as the archiving and DMS interface, more than 2.5 million certified users
Foundation of Cryptshare Inc. in the USA
Moving the headquarters to a new and bigger office in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
About Cryptshare and Befine Solutions
The owner-managed Befine Solutions AG develops and supplies software solutions that help companies support, optimise, and secure their processes. Founded in the year 2000, the company with now almost forty employees has its headquarter and development site located in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Further sales offices are located in Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the USA.
Along with the founder Dominik Lehr, the leadership team consists of the second CEO Mark Forrest and the CTO Matthias Kess.
The focus is on Cryptshare, a communication solution for the exchange of sensitive business information. It makes it possible to send and receive e-mails and large files ad-hoc – secure, easy and at low cost. Cryptshare also offers auditability which helps companies to follow compliance rules and regulations. Today more than 1000 companies in over 30 countries use Cryptshare with nearly 2.5 million users. This success is underlined by the “Cybersecurity Excellence Award 2017”.