Computer scientists at the University of Washington have developed a way to make electronic messages “self destruct” after a certain period of time, completely inaccessible to any nosy parties- non existent, in effect. Researchers said that they think Vanish- which requires encrypting messages, will be needed more and more as personal and business information is stored not just on personal computers, but on centralized machines and servers. The term of the moment for this concept is “cloud computing,” and the cloud consists of the data — including e-mail and Web-based documents and calendars — stored on numerous servers. This unique approach relies on “shattering” an encryption key that is held by neither party in an e-mail exchange, but rather widely scattered across a peer-to-peer file sharing system.
A prototype of the Vanish system has been developed based on a plug-in for the Mozilla Firefox Web browser. One of the limitations of the software is that using the system requires both parties of the communication to have a copy of the module. Courtesy of nytimes.com