Two months ago, I reported on a preview I’d seen of WindTalker, describing it as a document-security product unlike anything I’d seen. This week, WindTalker makes its formal debut, launching as a cloud-based content-security platform with an initial focus on the legal sector.

Initially developed for the U.S. Department of Defense, WindTalker is unlike other encryption or redaction software in that it allows a user to protect a document in its native format and on a granular level, allowing or denying access to others according to rights-based permissions.

That means that you can protect any text or image within a document — paragraphs, lines or even just words — and set access for different roles and people to any of those individual protected pieces, without have to generate multiple documents for different types of users. Within the same document, you could, for example, give your co-counsel access to some parts and your outside expert access to other parts. The same document can be opened by different people, and each person will see only what they have access to.

Although protected content appears to be redacted to those who do not have access, it is actually encrypted. The encryption can be applied to both Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat documents, and it follows the documents, so that if one recipient forwards it, the permissions still apply. A single document can contain multiple sets of permissions.

The different protections you apply to a document appear as different colors based on your defined access roles.

Further, each separate protection of text within a single document is a separate encipherment. WindTalker says it uses military-grade encryption that is virtually impossible to decrypt. But even if someone were to decrypt a single instance of protection within a document, all the other instances would remain separately encrypted.

WindTalker works only on Windows-based computers using Windows 7 or higher. It requires users to download client software that interfaces with the WindTalker servers. Users must also install add-ins within Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat DC.

The company tells me that it plans to release native support for Macs in 2019. However, clients are already using WindTalker on Mac computers through the use of the separately purchased Parallels software.

A reader who does not have access cannot see the underlying text.

WindTalker can protect content either manually or automatically. To use it manually within Word, the user highlights the content to protect, selects a “role” from a dropdown menu in the WindTalker tab on the Office ribbon, and then clicks “Apply.”

You, your firm or your organization define the roles to be applied. A role might be “attorney-client privileged” or “human resources” or “medical.” You can create roles via a dashboard on the WindTalker website, where you can assign users to a role, assign a color to a role (for how protected text will appear in your document), and assign tags to roles.

WindTalker can also protect content using what it calls Scouts. Scouts will automatically protect specific types of information — Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, phone numbers and dates. To use this, you would first select the protection role you wish to apply, and then click the button for the particular type of Scout.

WindTalker also allows users to create custom Scouts to protect specific words, phrases or any regular expressions, or to create macros to apply protections based on certain conditions. In addition, Scouts can be set to automatically run based on triggers such as opening or closing a document. In this way, they can be used to enforce security policies against documents.

In order for someone else to be able to view the portions of the document to which they have access, they will have to be running the WindTalker client software. Someone who does not have access or who does not have the software will see PROTECTED in place of the protected text. WindTalker is enabling free guest licenses for third parties to view documents protected with its software.

It is always a drawback when a program requires others to have the same program in order to read a document. But the guest license is free and the software is quick to install.

Pricing and What’s Ahead

Last week, Doug Martinez, executive vice president of WindTalker, gave me a demonstration of the product and then provided me with a password to try it for myself.

Martinez said that in testing the product so far, it has proven to have found a “sweet spot” in litigation, and in particular in e-discovery to protect documents based on different roles.

Martinez points out that the user retains the ability to turn on, turn off and revise permissions for a document. Thus, when litigation ends, an attorney who shared documents with opposing counsel can revoke that access. Or if a judge wanted to do an in-chambers review of protected parts of a document, the attorney could turn on access for the judge.

And if the judge ordered changes in what was or was not redacted, those changes could easily be made by changing permissions, rather than have to go back to the original documents and perform the redaction over again.

The cost of the software is $40 a month per user. For enterprise clients, the company will scale the pricing. A free trial account is available through the website.

Coming later this year will be an add-on for Microsoft Excel and then early next year an add-on for Microsoft Outlook. The company also plans to offer a split-key option, where half the decryption key sits on its cloud and half on premises with the customer.

While WindTalker is focusing on the legal market initially, Martinez believes it will prove valuable across industries as a tool that can serve the dual roles of protecting security while promoting collaboration. “A tool such as this enables companies to start easily applying protection to documents while also relieving them of risk if they share those documents,” he says.

WindTalker appears to be a unique and practical variation on software for protecting the security of documents. I like that it makes it easy to protect documents on a granular level and to apply different sets of permissions within a single document. The Word add-on makes it easy to use and there is virtually no learning curve. For both author and reader, the overall experience seems preferable to plodding through redactions and multiple document versions.

 

Last week, I attended ILTACON, the annual meeting of the International Legal Technology Association, where I sat down with a number of legal technology companies for briefings on their latest news and products. I’m posting a four-part roundup of those companies. I started Monday with Part 1 and yesterday with Part 2. Here is Part 3.

NetDocuments

If you are still afraid of the cloud, don’t be.

That, in so many words, is the message being delivered this year by NetDocuments, the cloud-based document and email management platform. At ILTACON, I met with Marriott Murdock, head of global product marketing, and Bradlee Duncan, senior product manager, who said that the company’s messaging this year is emphasizing three value points:

  • Safe, meaning all the security, data protection, governance, infrastructure, encryption, policies and other protections that NetDocuments incorporates to protect client data.
  • Proven, meaning that the company, now 20 years old, has withstood the test of time and is now the custodian of some 10 billion files. While other companies are now trying to play catch up with the cloud, Murdock said, “It’s our DNA.” Putting its money where its mouth is, so to speak, NetDocuments recently launched global trust pages to provide real-time transparency on service health and performance. “We’ve pulled back the curtains on what’s going on,” Murdock said.
  • Ready, meaning that NetDocuments is a global platform that is ready for the end user to work from anywhere and using any of a variety of tools.

The company is maintaining a growth rate of 40 percent or more, Murdock said, adding at least a firm a day (including some in other verticals). Its customers include 20 of the AmLaw 100, and 10 firms this year moved from iManage to NetDocuments, he said. “Ten years ago, we were the underdog. Now it’s a two-horse race.”

As I reported last month, NetDocuments went through a leadership change, naming a new CEO, Josh Baxter, who had been president and COO since joining the company last year, so that Matt Duncan, who had been CEO since 2014, could step into a role that would allow him time to care for his father, NetDocument cofounder Ken Duncan, who is battling late-stage Parkinson’s disease.

On the day before ILTACON, at an event sponsored by the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium, NetDocuments demonstrated a proof of concept for email attachment encryption using the blockchain to publish the email identity and public key. I was not at the event, but Peter Buck, VP, product strategy at NetDocuments, told me in an email that the tool, while still in early development, is “super simple and pretty elegant.”

Also at ILTACON, NetDocuments was demonstrating ndThread, a social collaboration and matter-based messaging tool built within the NetDocuments platform, which it released in May. The product is based on the ThreadKM collaborative messaging technology that NetDocuments acquired last November.

WindTalker

Making its debut at ILTACON with a document-security product unlike anything I’ve seen was WindTalker, a company that has an interesting and unique take on providing security for privileged, confidential or sensitive content. At the conference, I spoke with its founder and CEO, Christopher Combs, who explained that the key difference between his product and others is that, while others secure the container — in other words, the entire file –his secures the content, natively.

What that means is that the product allows a user to protect a document granularly — by the paragraph, by the line, or even by the word. Protected content is encrypted, not redacted, and others are allowed or denied access based on rights-based permissions. Its encryption can be applied to both Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat documents, and it follows the documents, so that if one recipient forwards it, the permissions still apply. A single document can contain multiple sets of permissions.

A document can be granularly encrypted with different sets of permissions for different types of users. Some sections might be viewable by members of the legal team, while different sections might be viewable only by a CEO. These permissions can be turned on or off remotely and WindTalker automatically logs events for auditing purposes and supports creation of privilege logs.

Introduced at ILTACON, the product will officially launch within the next month or two.

American LegalNet

Given that it has been in business since 1996 and released its first product in 2001, it was surprising that I had never before met with American LegalNet. At ILTACON, I had the opportunity to sit down with its founder and CEO, Erez Bustan.

The company’s product is an end-to-end application for managing litigation dockets, deadlines and documents. One platform includes docketing and calendaring, court rules for all federal and state courts, PACER/ECF automation that automatically downloads and stores the free “first-look” documents, a collection of over 100,000 court and agency forms, and court data feeds for calendar entries and court appearances.

It ILTACON, its major news announcement was a new alliance partnership with Thomson Reuters Elite that will allow American LegalNet’s product to be available to customers of the Elite products 3E and Enterprise.

Bustan described his company as being in the risk management business. Noting that 40 percent of malpractice lawsuits result from calendaring mistakes and missed deadlines, he said that American LegalNet has developed a complete workflow that takes law firms away from risk and that increases their efficiency around the management of litigation documents.

Right now, most of the company’s customers are top-500 firms, Bustan said, including a number of prominent large firms. However, it is working on the release of a cloud product that will allow it to sell to smaller firms.

AdvoLogix

AdvoLogix is a cloud-based, enterprise-level law practice and legal matter management platform for law firms and corporate legal departments. At ILTACON, I met with Steve Stockstill, vice president, product development, who told me that what makes AdvoLogix unique is that it is built on the Salesforce.com cloud architecture. “Our customers are using the same Salesforce cloud that Salesforce uses,” he said.

That means that customers can buy AdvoLogix in either of two configurations — as a standalone or as an addition to an existing Salesforce application. The latter is often how corporate legal departments deploy AdvoLogix, since they are likely to be already using Salesforce within their organizations.

Because it operates on the Salesforce platform, AdvoLogix also integrates with a wide range of other applications that work within Salesforce — more than 3,000, it says. These include applications such as DocuSign, HotDocs, Worldox, NetDocuments, Contract Express, Box, and many others.

At ILTACON, AdvoLogix was highlighting its summer product release, with a number of new features and enhancements related to client intake, matter timelines, conflict checking, billing and timekeeping, calendaring and scheduling, document management, document assembly, and more.