Making Ephemerality and Encryption a New Norm

I am very excited to announce that I have joined Wickr as CEO and President and want to share a few thoughts about my vision for the company and its role in advancing privacy and transparency.

My first thought is simple: individuals, governments, and corporations all deserve access to private and therefore secure communications.

For the better part of two decades, I have been privileged to work with the very best security researchers and most innovative companies in the world in pursuit of this privacy ambition. The collective goal was, and remains, to protect critical systems, communications and information. And yet, daily reports of data breaches and global attacks have emphasized that society does not fully understand how to protect high-value information. In fact, for many in the InfoSec industry, it is clear that end-point security is not attainable via typical tools. With security being a team effort, everyone needs to become more responsible about how we communicate and treat sensitive conversations.

As a result, the vast majority of true practitioners have decided that they cannot trust others to secure their most critical information and conversations. They break IT governance rules by setting up their own email servers to reliably manage what is retained and for how long. Don’t be confused, breaking these IT rules is common place across the Fortune 500, and apparently in the public domain as well.

My second thought is that it is irresponsible and reckless to NOT break these rules. Conducting private conversations on “owned” communications channels is not acceptable. Further, it is responsible to destroy information when you have no confidence that it can be protected. These practices are only reckless when they are not thoughtful procedures supporting the use case; and the technologies used outside the “owned” channel are also unprotected.

As an early investor in Wickr, I watched with curiosity as my colleagues turned to the free Wickr Messenger app for their most critical and proprietary communications. These spectacularly careful and thoughtful people were using a product that had limited collaboration features but unmatched ephemerality, encryption, and therefore privacy.

The practice of avoiding centrally managed email and messaging systems will, and I would suggest should, continue until IT organizations can predictably protect information and provide privacy. It matters who touches your data, where it resides, and how long it lives. To this end, individuals, governments and corporations will increasingly turn to ephemeral communications as a critical data protection mechanism because the data you don’t retain is the data that cannot be compromised.

My third thought is that Wickr will continuously evolve its technology and remain the leading ephemeral communications platform. Wickr is well positioned to tackle the challenge of extending private messaging into the enterprise. We are determined to redefine how high-impact teams within enterprises and institutions operate in sensitive, competitive, and often hostile security environments.

Wickr started with a simple mission: to build reliable and easy-to-use security for users who cared about their privacy. Persistent ephemerality has been the key ingredient, and I believe it is a testament to the Wickr team’s vision to see more end users move to ephemeral communication tools and more companies introduce end-to-end encryption and ephemerality in their consumer products.

So… as I start this journey with my Wickr team, it is important for me personally to reinforce our commitment to the core values on which this company was built:

Privacy: We are committed to building products in a way that ensures that no third party, including Wickr, has access to user data.

Transparency: Wickr will continue to operate with full transparency about our product security, user privacy, and public policies. We are committed to strengthening the ongoing collaboration with our user community and more broadly with our network of security and privacy practitioners.

User Control: We remain committed to giving Wickr users control over their data through key verification and persistent ephemerality.

Security Innovation: User needs will always be at the core of our engineering and design efforts focused on perfecting products and protocols against emerging risks.

My last thought is … why me? Maybe it’s because I’ve been passionate about security, privacy and research. Or because I’ve had some success working with people vastly more technical and intelligent than I could ever hope to be. Maybe it is because I can reach out to teams across multiple industries who lead incident response efforts, coordinate M&A process, and protect intellectual property.

I just know that it’s time for secure and persistent ephemeral messaging to become a norm for individuals, enterprises and governments. We need to have confidence in the communication channels we use. Wickr is determined to become the go-to product for individuals and organizations who care about secure and private communications.

So… enough thinking. Time to get to work.

About Joel

Joel Wallenstrom is CEO & President of Wickr Inc., a secure communications company offering peer-to-peer encrypted ephemeral consumer messenger and enterprise-level products designed to protect urgent and sensitive data and conversations. Prior to joining Wickr, Joel co-founded iSEC Partners, one of the world’s leading information security research teams, later acquired by NCC Group. At NCC, Joel built the largest team of independent security experts in North America, renowned for its cutting edge independent research. Prior to iSEC, Joel served as Director for Strategic Alliances at @stake, one of the very first computer security companies, which acquired L0pht Heavy Industries and was itself later purchased by Symantec.

He earned a B.A. in both Economics and History from Brown University and a Masters degree in Business Administration and Competitive Intelligence from the University of Denver.