Dropbox has been widely adopted by real estate pros and has proven to be an extremely valuable tool.
However, security — or, should I say, lack of security — has always been an issue with cloud storage services, particularly in the real estate industry where Realtors are potentially sharing sensitive data with clients.
Now a Boston, Mass., startup, nCrypted Cloud, has built an app that bridges this security gap by adding an additional layer of encryption security to cloud storage services.
The app is available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and encrypts data stored in Dropbox and Dropbox for Business. Support for Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive will be rolled out later this year. Once the app is installed on your device, adding privacy and secure sharing is facilitated with a simple right-click.
Utilizing patent-pending, zero-knowledge encryption that is based on cryptographic algorithms, nCrypted Cloud also employs a 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) zip file format to contain data. This ensures that data can be retrieved using any standard zip utility.
The service could be a good fit for the real estate industry. Particularly, when a real estate agent is sharing sensitive files with a client. According to nCrypted Cloud CEO and co-founder Nick Stamos, Realtors are conduits for a significant amount of Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and financial data on behalf of their clients.
Sometimes, Stamos says, Realtors must share this information with other third parties, and may be subject to privacy regulations, disclosure requirements and financial liability in the event that security is breached and data is lost.
But Stamos understands that “the real estate business works on an accelerated basis whereby the speed of an offer may win the deal, which put demands on the ability to quickly receive and share information, with several different parties.”
By combining Dropbox with nCrypted Cloud, he says, “Realtors can meet their business need for fast simple information gathering and distribution, while maintaining the privacy of their client’s data.”
In my testing, I was impressed at how easy nCrypted Cloud was to download and configure — it took only a couple of simple steps.
The company also made an astute decision in opting to build a service that enhances existing cloud storage services, rather than creating a new app in an already crowded space. (I recently wrote about Dropbox for Business and outlined some of the new features that are available with the revamped product.)
Why is an additional layer of security important to cloud storage services? Corporations have a responsibility to protect sensitive data and follow the data governance policies. In addition to sensitive data, Stamos says, regulated data must also be handled in a compliant way.
“All data that pertains to the privacy of customers or employees must follow regulations such as PCI, HIPAA and HITECH.”
Most regulations come down to two basic requirements:
1: Corporation must at all times be in control of data and be able to explicitly control access and revoke access of employees and other data handlers. We achieve this with our persistent encryption technology.
2: Corporation must be able to prove appropriate access and use of regulated data. This is achieved through forensic-level auditing.
The nCrypted Cloud app comes in two flavors: a free consumer app and the paid enterprise edition.
The enterprise edition is $10 a month, per user. The subscription includes centralized control for corporate data and the ability to provision user accounts. It also enables the ability to turn off user access to all corporate data on all devices, as well as auditing across all employees and any third party with access to data. Those are nice features if the product is implemented at the broker level by the in-house technology department.
Although Dropbox has made positive strides in security, having that extra layer of security to protect your business is certainly a good thing.
You can learn more about nCrypted Cloud here.
Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at email@example.com or @tflan on Twitter.