After Sony hack, big companies are flocking to this disappearing email app

Confide co-founder Jon Brod at 2014 Fortune Brainstorm Tech
Jon Brod, co-founder and president of Confide, at the 2014 Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo.
Photograph by Kevin Moloney — Fortune Brainstorm Tech

The November 2014 hack of Sony Pictures cost the company $15 million in investigation and remediation fees. But the company also suffered immeasurable damage around the internal information that leaked, including unreleased movies, embarrassing internal emails, and the personal data—including Social Security numbers—of 47,000 celebrities and employees.

It’s no surprise that avoiding such a hack is top-of-mind for most Fortune 500 CEOs. That’s led to an influx in interest for software that might prevent hacks. It has made Confide, an app that allows professionals to send disappearing messages, quite popular. The New York company positions itself as a “Snapchat for professionals.” On Wednesday Confide released new features that allow users to share disappearing documents and photos without allowing anyone to take a screenshot. The company also made it easier to import things like emails into the app, so people can easily take a correspondence off the record.

But Confide has much bigger plans for an enterprise version of its app, and according to co-founder and president Jon Brod, companies have been eager to adopt it. Confide’s enterprise version of its app, called “Confide for Business,” includes address book integration, distribution lists, and integration with cloud storage providers. It is still in beta mode, but since Confide began showing it off to businesses in December, it has received hundreds of inbound in inquiries.

The enterprise version of Confide won’t work for healthcare companies regulated by HIPAA or financial firms regulated by FINRA. But just about every other industry has been receptive, Brod says. That includes small and medium-sized businesses and Fortune 500 companies spanning several countries and dozens of industries like media, technology, legal, human resources, agencies, sports, entertainment and cable, Brod says. “[The] Sony hacks made the need very acute,” he says. The company has not released user numbers, but each week since the Sony hack has been a record-breaking week for new sign-ups.

Many large companies already have data retention policies, where emails are automatically deleted after a certain period of time. But that doesn’t matter if recipients still have a copy of the email, as Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel experienced when his emails to Sony CEO Michael Lynton, who sits on Snapchat’s board of directors, were leaked as part of the Sony hack. Spiegel wrote that he “felt like he was going to cry” after the correspondence leaked.

This is ironic, of course: Spiegel’s company, Snapchat, popularized the idea of ephemeral messages. Confide is taking the concept to professionals. Brod believes companies will push employees to use ephemeral communications more often to avoid leaks. “It is becoming more and more accepted that anything we communicate digitally—via email, IM, text, et cetera—will be exposed at some point in the future,” he says.

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