NU Online News Service, May 15, 1:40 p.m. EDT

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The need for independent agents to encrypt e-mail transmissionsis not only important for compliance with privacy laws but can alsobe used as a marketing tool by agents, a technology expertsaid.

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Jim Rogers, director of distribution technology at The Hartford,made his comments during an Agents Council for Technology (ACT) Webseminar on the subject of Transport Layer Security (TLS) e-mail, orthe encryption of e-mail messages to protect sensitive customerinformation.

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The seminar, moderated by Jeff Yates, ACT executive director,covered the legal and technical aspects of TLS and its importanceto independent agents.

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Mr. Rogers said that adopting TLS is "essential to doingbusiness" and warned that typical e-mails over the most popularprovider systems, such as Yahoo and Google, are not protected.There is also growing demand from customers, he said, to dobusiness by e-mail over secure systems.

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The passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 establishedthat private information cannot be shared publicly and needs to besecured. While GLB established the privacy foundations, states havebeen more aggressive in setting higher standards on personalinformation, especially concerning the transmission of credit cardinformation, seminar participants said.

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States are trending toward requiring businesses to imposetighter controls over personal information, Mr. Yates noted. Headded that utilization of TLS standard is just good businesspractice, and not adopting those standards is "like sending an openpost card."

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The challenge, Mr. Rogers explained, is adopting TLS standardsto avoid having to open each individual message with identificationand password. Fortunately, many of the current Microsoft serverprograms have TLS capabilities to both encrypt and translatemessages. The challenge is getting users to turn on those systems,he said.

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He noted that all Real Time transactions are encrypted and thatanother encryption option is sending a PDF that is passwordprotected. The downside of that is the receiving party has to beaware of the e-mail and know password.

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In addition to security concerns, Mr. Rogers noted that a numberof agencies have adopted TLS standards and are touting thosestandards in their marketing to their commercial clients.

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Reviewing how to implement TLS programs, Tim Woodcock, presidentof Courtesy Computer, said there are a number of server providersthat furnish TLS certificates to encrypt e-mail transmissions.Implementation of the TLS certification should be done by theagency's chief technology officer or the agency's outside vendor,he said.

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After reviewing the technical aspects of turning TLS on, Mr.Woodcock noted that agencies that purchase the programs now canenjoy tax advantages under the current federal economic stimulusprogram. Microsoft is also offering savings on the purchase of itsprogram, he advised.

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ACT, which was founded by the Independent Insurance Agents &Brokers of America, said it will have more detailed information onits Web site concerning TLS. There are also plans to make theseminar available for rebroadcast in the future, said Mr.Yates.

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Additional information on ACT and security features can be foundat www.independentagent.com/actunder agency security/customer privacy.

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ACT plans another seminar on June 23. Registration for theseminar is available at www1.gotomeeting.com/register/974713337.

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