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A British-based startup believes it has found the Holy Grail - safe, secure email that is spam and virus-free.

Jeftel says it can solve the problems which have plagued email since it began. Subscribers to the service pay £25 annual licence fee for the downloaded software. This will enable them to send emails directly to other machines, rather than via a web or email server. Jeftel claims that sending messages directly is safer than leaving copies on servers.

The service uses Peer-to-Peer technology like Napster. The software allows users to create online communities which are ring-fenced to avoid hack and virus threats. Subscribers get secure access to their existing email addresses as well as a .safe address.

Robert Barr, head of development at Jeftel, told The Reg: "All the vulnerabilities in the SMTP email system are at the storage points. We send encrypted mail directly from machine to machine avoiding this problem." He believes that existing email encryption products are too complicated for many senior executives to use.

Both sender and recipient must have installed Jeftel software to use the service. Once set up emails can be sent directly from one machine to another, avoiding ISP servers.

Matt Sergeant, anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, is unconvinced: "I don't see how they will scale this up - it's a chicken and egg situation. At the moment the only people you can email are Jeftel employees - you won't get spam but you won't be able to email anybody either."

Jeftel is a privately-funded start-up. It employs 30 people, 21 of them developers. More here.

Jeftel is donating £5 from every £25 subscription to Save the Children. The company has patents pending on the technology. ®

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