Magic Cipher: The Story [1/2]

In 2007 I’d just launched my first application for the Mac, macVCR and I was looking for inspiration for my next project. I had long recognised the need for a simple and easy to use encryption program and hadn’t been able to find one. I decided my goal should be to create one.  Not only would this ‘scratch an itch’ it would hopefully go on to become a successful product in its own right.  If I needed this then so did others.

The problem was that I used, and still do, macOS, Windows and Linux on a regular basis, and so would some of my customers. If they, for example, use Windows now – they may use macOS in the future.  For this to be a worthwhile endeavour my product would have to run on those three major operating system platforms and provide transparency and compatibility between them. This was no longer a small project.

R10Cipher: Supported Operating Systems

To make this product a reality I chose Xojo as a development platform, or REALStudio as it was then known, and set to work creating R10Cipher.

The first thing I needed was a Vision Statement, something to guide me during development and help focus my thoughts. I settled on the following:

A Simple and Easy Method to Safely Encrypt your Email Correspondence and Document Files.  It’s like your emails and documents are carried by a SWAT team rather than being written on a Postcard !  R10Cipher is for Individuals. For Businesses. For You. For Me. For Mum and Dad. For Teachers. For Professionals. For Journalists. For Executives. For Everybody.  Because our Privacy and Security have never been more important.

The next thing I needed to do was decide on what encryption technology to use. AES was relatively new at the time and was still looked at suspiciously by many Americans following the whole ‘Clipper Chip‘ incident.  In the end I settled on a UK invented encryption technology called Blowfish.  Blowfish is a keyed symmetric block cipher which was invented by ‘Security Guru’ and renowned author Bruce Schneier in 1993. It provides excellent encryption and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Blowfish is free of patents and back doors, and Bruce has placed Blowfish in the public domain.

Version 1 of R10Cipher was released in 2008 and sold only a few dozen copies.  Using the feedback from these early customers Version 2 was released with some significant enhancements including drag and drop batch encryption of files and documents.

When Version 2 was released, Version 1 was featured as a free edition on the DVD Cover Disks for the glossy UK editions of MacFormat and MacWorld magazines, on consecutive months.  Since then I have agreed for it to be distributed on several foreign editions of the magazines.  Hundreds of new users were gained through the distribution of the free edition, and many of those went on to pay for an upgrade to Version 2.

Macworld and MacFormat Magazines featuring R10Cipher 1 on the Cover DVD

Direct Sales of Version 2 were excellent, with good feedback and testimonials. New customers means new ideas and feature requests and so Version 3 was scheduled.

Version 3 released 2nd August 2009 was a major new version that addressed all user requests from Versions 1 and 2. The main advantages of Version 3 were an increase in encryption strength to 384 Bit, an encryption strength indicator and a full Key Management capability which creates an encrypted local database which contains the ‘Shared Secrets’ that you use to communicate with your different contacts.

Interest in Version 3 was phenomenal, it far exceeded my expectations. I had many upgrades from Version 2 to Version 3 and as I offered an upgrade policy even from the free edition, I have had a few upgrade from Version 1 to Version 3 also.

2009 also saw R10Cipher become a Finalist in the UK IT Industry Awards, Technology Excellence / Information Security Product category.  The UK IT Industry Awards are held annually by Computing Magazine and the British Computer Society.

R10Cipher: Finalist UK IT Industry Awards

In April 2010 in conjunction with MacFormat Magazine I offered a free Version 2.5 SE on the DVD Cover Disk with a discounted upgrade to Version 3. This promotion was not as successful as earlier promotions, possibly because 2.5 SE was a ‘designed to be free’ product, rather than an actual previously sold version. In addition Version 3 had at this stage been out for a while.

Version 4 of R10Cipher was released in June 2010, with Version 5 being released in July 2012.

Commercially R10Cipher has been a great success for me with several thousand users and it is a product I am very proud of. Just as importantly, my customers have had immediate and measurable benefits through the use of R10Cipher. Previously they knew they needed something to protect their communication and documents, but they could not find a product that seemed easy and simple enough for them to use.  R10Cipher filled that requirement.

IT Security and Data Protection were and are high on many peoples agendas at the moment, or at least they should be, and yet the majority of people are left exposed because until R10Cipher came along there was not a product simple and easy and complete enough for them to consider using it.

Here are some paragraphs about R10Cipher, back in the day:

R10Cipher is unique in that this is the first cross platform end to end encryption product that real people can and will use for day to day encryption purposes. R10Cipher does not attempt to encrypt a complete volume, R10Cipher does not try and involve the user with complex Public Key encryption, R10Cipher does not need a complicated install, in fact R10Cipher does not need installing at all. R10Cipher concentrates on being the easiest to use and most reliable End to End, Text and File Encryption software.

The lack of an installation makes R10Cipher unique in that you can copy the Windows (XP, Vista and 7), Mac OSX and Linux versions of R10Cipher to a USB drive or external device, along with your documents and carry your data about with you knowing that a) You can access that data on any computer and b) It is secure, so if you lose it or leave it in a taxi then the information is unreadable and no harm is done.

Because of it’s simplicity and ease of use R10Cipher pioneers new ways of working. Backup your important data to the web, iCloud, Dropbox or similar – encrypted by R10Cipher, and retrieve the information later, wherever you happen to be. Your data is secure – secured by you not by your web hosting company. If your hosting company is enforced by law to hand over your information, that information is useless to the recipient unless *you* agree to provide access.

The main innovation of R10Cipher therefore is not in the technology but the way in which the product is designed to be easy and simple to use for everybody – not just IT Professionals.

This brings us nearly up to date.  I should perhaps mention that R10Cipher took a back seat for me, as did my other commercial products, between 2012 and 2016.  This was due to personal and health problems involving, amongst other things, Motorcycles and Air Ambulance Helicopters.

R10Cipher was never forgotten and when the chance came to resurrect it through an acquisition by Area51 Limited I was extremely pleased.  Not only could the product be re-written, updated and enhanced and once again made available, but I would be backed up by others who could step into my shoes and continue development, should the worse ever happen.

2016: Magic Cipher was born.  Press Release

Magic Cipher

Part 2 of this post will detail how Magic Cipher was built, its initial goals as well as the way it will change over time and the additional functionality we will be adding in the near future.  For now, you can obtain a copy of Magic Cipher with a 20% discount using the coupon code: MCBL20 which can be entered at checkout: http://www.magiccipher.com

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