ForceTLS

ForceTLS is the culmination of all our work on secure email. It is a very simple answer to "My email has to be secure."

Its premise is simple: do CheckTLS.com testing on an email as it is sent. And if anything is wrong, don't sent it and let someone know.

Why Is ForceTLS Important?

The larger, more redundant, and more fail-safe an email system is, the more moving parts it has, and the more chances there are for small failures. These failures tend to impact security first: the mail gets through but it gets through in plain text. This can be illegal, against policy, and/or result in an embarrassing public relations gaff.

Take a few of your trading partners, or just a few famous companies. Run the CheckTLS.com Receiver test on their email domain. How many score a perfect 100? How many score in the 90s, which typically indicates they have a minor issue with their certificate, but their email is still secure? How many, even if their total score is good, have a weak MX server in their mix? It is frightening how many domains do not get an "A" for something so important as the security of the data they pass in email.

And obviously, no matter how much an email system is tested, it could fail between the last test and the next email. The failure will result in either the mail not going or going insecurely.

And when an email sneaks through insecurely, it's likely no one will know about it for hours or even days. There is a lot of secure email crossing the Internet as clear text. You need to make sure none of that snoop-able email is yours.

What Does ForceTLS Do?

It does three things to make sure an email gets through securely. One, it tries every possible way to find a secure path to delivery the mail. Two, if it can't find a secure path, it can deliver the mail to an alternate mailbox. Three, it "hand carries" each email through whichever of the delivery methods it uses. And no matter what it does, it can let you and/or the recipient know about it.

ForceTLS is like the old telephone switchboard operators. To make a call, the caller picked up the phone and spoke to the operator. She then got the other party on another line. If everything worked, she plugged the caller and the callee together and dropped off the call.

To send an email with ForceTLS, the sender connects to ForceTLS. ForceTLS makes sure the sender is doing everything right (TLS, etc). It then connects to the receiver and makes sure it's doing everything right too. If everything is working, it plugs the sender and receiver together and drops off the connection.

If something goes wrong, ForceTLS is configurable to notify the sender, the receiver, or both. It can re-route the email (securely) to an alternate emailbox, and notify the recipient at their original email address. Or it can add failed emails to a work queue for someone to handle manually. Notifications can be configured for whatever ForceTLS does with an email, such as returning a secure delivery receipt.

Simple, straight forward, and unique in the marketplace.

How Do I Use ForceTLS?

ForceTLS licenses are available from CheckTLS.com and typically cost $100/yr. This includes all updates and support, as well as a money back satisfaction guarantee. Please contact us for more information or a free trial. Contact info is available at the bottom off this page.

ForceTLS is available "in the cloud" or as an application on your server(s) in your data center. It's easy to build in redundancy, fail-over, and fall-back capability so your email is never at risk from our software.

There are two ways to direct email through ForceTLS. One: automatically with mail routing, and two: manually on an address by address basis.

To use ForceTLS automatically, use email routing. Most email systems have the ability to send all or selected email to a "smarter" host rather than directly to the recipient. These are used for spam filtering, anti-virus, adding disclaimers, etc. It is usually simple to insert ForceTLS as a link in the chain of hosts that email follows in your setup.

To use ForceTLS manually on an address by address basis, make a couple simple changes to the recipient's address: change the "@" to a "%" and append @forcetls.com on the end. So
me@mydomain.com becomes
me%mydomain.com@forcetls.com

This will send those emails through ForceTLS, which will un-do the changes and then do it's magic.

Of course you can save the changed address in an address book or database, so you automatically get ForceTLS whenever you use that email. One of our customers uses rewritten addresses in their "deliver medical reports to" database field, thus guaranteeing they never send Patient Health Information (PHI, see HIPAA) illegally.

Is ForceTLS Safe?

Yes. ForceTLS does not "read" email. No email is ever stored anywhere inside ForceTLS; in fact, unless the email is very short, it never exists in its entirety anywhere inside ForceTLS.

Could it break? Anything can break. ForceTLS is a threaded application, so if any one email finds a way to "break" ForceTLS, then just that one email will be affected.

What if my ForceTLS server goes down? It is easy to build in redundancy to ForceTLS. For example two servers and two MX records, so if either server is working then all email still works. We always have at least two servers, housed in different data centers, for "cloud" ForceTLS.

What about the worst case scenario? Easy: take ForceTLS out of the loop. Route your email around it, just as it was before ForceTLS was installed. This is an easy change that takes effect immediately and completely removes ForceTLS.

Why Use ForceTLS?

When email is working, ForceTLS is an invisible safety net. It's there, behind the scenes, watching over your email, doing nothing until something breaks. Then it prevents a security violation and lets you know. ForceTLS raises your organization's level of security, and security policy compliance. And it looks good to security audits and in security policy manuals.

Before they were using ForceTLS, our client delivering radiology reports found that although they tested TLS with every new customer, when they went back during an audit to verify TLS, some had stopped using TLS. Emails to those customers were going out unprotected.

How Does ForceTLS Work?

ForceTLS prevents the "quiet fall back" of most Internet email systems. RFC-3207, the standard for secure Internet email, states "A publicly-referenced SMTP server MUST NOT require use of the STARTTLS extension in order to deliver mail locally. This rule prevents the STARTTLS extension from damaging the interoperability of the Internet's SMTP infrastructure."

Thus, most Internet email will "fall back" to open transport if any error occurs in securing the connection. Because the mail gets through, no failure message is returned to the sender; i.e. there is no message like "Your email was sent but security didn't work so it went as plain text." The recipient on the other hand gets the message just fine with no indication that security didn't work; i.e. there is no pop-up that says "Here's your email but security didn't work so it came as plain text."

It is usually possible to find out if email security failed by looking in log files, but no one does. The logs are hard to find and have thousands to millions of lines. It is also possible to tell if TLS worked in the SMTP headers on a received email message, which again are hard to get to and even harder to read.

ForceTLS handles every email very carefully, making sure it is always securely encrypted. If an email is not deliverable over a secure connection, it is not delivered at all, and either the sender or the receiver or both are immediately notified.

Can I Talk to Someone?

Yes! Please contact us. We'd be happy to discuss your needs and assess if ForceTLS is a fit. Send us an email with your contact info and when would be a good time for one of our "smart people" to call you. Info(at)CheckTLS.com