Have you ever picked up a postcard that wasn't addressed to you and read it anyway? Sure you have! The truth is, we're all interested in other people's business and will look at information not intended for our viewing.In many ways, you can think of e-mail as being as open and unsecured as a postcard. It's not very hard for people - whether authorized or not - to intercept and read the contents of your messages. As I've written before, you should not think of e-mail as being secure or private between you and the intended recipient.Despite the inherent lack of security, we all love e-mail and use it to conduct a lot of business. In many cases, the convenience of sending messages over the Internet far outweighs the risk of having the content read by prying eyes.It is possible to use digital certificates and public-key infrastructure (PKI)-based encryption schemes to protect your messages. However, implementations can be complicated, expensive and beyond the grasp of the average user. Companies that deployed internal secure communications might have spent $100,000 or more to set up the service. Frankly, secure e-mail was out of reach of the average user. Until now, that is.Echoworx Corporation has brought easy PKI encryption to the mass market to secure e-mail messages when needed. It's easy to use, for both the sender and the recipient of the message. Echoworx Secure Mail integrates into your Outlook client software, so that when you are ready to send a message, you press the "secure" button to activate the PKI encryption.There's nothing more for the sender to do beyond pressing "secure" if the mail recipient also uses Echoworx Secure Mail. He'll receive the encrypted message and be able to open it easily on his end.If the mail recipient doesn't use Echoworx Secure Mail, the sender establishes a "shared secret" that will be the recipient's key to opening the secure mail. The shared secret is a question that only the recipient should be able to answer. The recipient receives a notice of the incoming mail. When he attempts to open it, he is directed to the service provider holding the message and is prompted for the shared secret answer. Upon providing the correct response, he can open the mail.An analogy of the ease of use is to think of sending a package through FedEx. The package recipient doesn't have to have a FedEx account to receive a package. He does, however, have to sign for it, establishing that he is the appropriate recipient.Echoworx Secure Mail is available to large enterprises to run as an internal application, installing and maintaining their own service. Or, such companies can lease the service through an ISP like Sun.For companies that expect to have fewer users of the service - perhaps just executives, or a specific department such as Finance - the service can be rented monthly from service providers such as Verizon Online and Bell South. Verizon calls its service Verizon Secure Mail, and it offers the service for $6.95 per month per e-mail address for an unlimited number of messages.Echoworx Secure Mail is best used as a one-way delivery mechanism for important documents or information. For example, a doctor can use this tool to securely and privately send test results to a patient. Financial companies, law firms and medical offices will find this service especially valuable. Such companies often have strict requirements to keep communications secure. Regular e-mail does not meet those requirements, but Echoworx Secure Mail does.For only $6.95 a month, there's no reason not to get the service for yourself to feel more secure about those messages that really need to remain private. Verizon will even give you a month of service for free to see if you like it.