SafeWeb switches to secure extranet hardware

SafeWeb Inc., formerly best known for its free online privacy tool, has completed its transition to a focus on enterprise customers. The company has released its first Secure Extranet Appliance (SEA), called SEA Tsunami, SafeWeb said in a statement.

The plug-in network appliance gives companies a low-cost way to create a secure extranet "in less than an hour," allowing employees, clients and partners to access internal applications from anywhere using an ordinary Web browser, SafeWeb said. Installing the device requires no changes to a customer's existing network infrastructure, or installation of client or server software.

SEA Tsunami "protects all network communications with the strongest banking grade encryption," and is based on the application-level reverse proxy technology that SafeWeb developed for its now-discontinued consumer tool for anonymous Web browsing.

Last November, the Oakland, California-based company suspended the service, which allowed users to surf the Web by using the SafeWeb site as a secure proxy. The next month SafeWeb, having been deluged with phone calls and e-mail from users, said it was "considering" restoring the service, but it still has not reappeared on the company's Web site.

A SafeWeb spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.

At the time the anonymous surfing tool was suspended, SafeWeb President and Co-Founder Jon Chun said the decision was purely a matter of economics -- the free, advertising-supported service, though popular with users, including many in countries with repressive regimes, was not making money.

"We have economic constraints on how much philanthropy we can do," he said at the time.

The decision to shut down the service came in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. and amid heightened concerns about potential terrorist use of anonymous Internet communication, prompting some observers to speculate that the company made the move under pressure from one of its investors, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's nonprofit venture capital company, In-Q-Tel Inc.

But Chun denied any such connection, remarking that In-Q-Tel, with a US$1 million stake in his company, is "a very minority investor."

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