A new UK security startup, Securecoms, has launched an email security system it is convinced will turn around the fortunes of encryption in the small and medium business (SMB) sector.

In a market that has defeated the best efforts of larger rivals, the company reckons its hardware-based approach to the technology will overcome the reluctance of companies to invest in a technology often seen as difficult to manage and complex to use.

Claimed to be configurable in minutes, the company’s Secure-mail is a Linux-based 100Mbits/s gateway that sits between the customer’s mail server and the Internet connection, automatically encrypting and decrypting incoming and outgoing email to other Secure-mail users.

Recipients lacking the same hub can decrypt emails sent to them using a free and downloadable Secure-mail: lite application, which runs on their PC.

“Nowadays people are routinely sending highly confidential information as attachments,” said David Ford, chief executive and founder of Secure-mail. “The growth in the volume of email used to send highly sensitive information presents a real risk, particularly to professional service firms and any organisations dealing with other people’s confidential information,” he said.

The problem with the service-based approach to email encryption was that keys were held by third parties, reducing security, while server-based systems had a tendency to increase the likelihood of incompatibilities, he said. The best option, in his view, was to use a simple encryption gateway.

The inconvenient side of the Secure-mail hub is the fact that nobody else will have one, meaning that almost every company or person receiving an email from a Secure-mail user will have to download the Lite application in order to decrypt email being sent to them. Since recipients can’t currently do this for themselves, and have to be added to the system manually, Secure-Mail is likely to appeal only to companies such as law firms that do large amounts of business with a small number of other companies and individuals.

Customers can try the hub on a 30-day trial, after which subscriptions would cost from between £1 ($2) and £10 ($20) per user, per month, depending on the number of users. There is no minimum or notice period.