Emotional support charity The Samaritans has installed Linux-based security software from Trustix to offer a secure email service for people in distress.
The organisation already uses SuSE Professional Linux in its IT infrastructure, and has just added a four-zone Trustix Firewall on an IBM eServer x305 and a Trustix proxy server on an IBM eServer x300 server.
The Samaritans explained that its email service had to be totally secure and confidential. People in distress can now email a single address, [email protected], which is administered centrally.
Sarah Nelson, a spokeswoman for the charity, said: "The email system is the only way that the general office is linked to the branches at present.
"Although the email system itself is not new we did not previously publicise it because it could not cope with high demand and we were concerned about security."
She explained that people in distress are often more able to express their feelings using email. Some 50 per cent were able to write about being suicidal whereas only a quarter did so over the phone.
Nelson said that cost was a major factor in the purchase decision. The charity's IT department is very small and Linux training was not an issue, because it is already using the software.
But The Samaritans had to ensure that it had trained enough volunteers to cope with the expected demand for the email service.
Branches use Windows desktops running a bespoke email application from Net Solutions. These link to the central system, automatically removing all headers and sender details to maintain confidentiality. A sender link is held for making replies.
Currently some 80 out of 203 UK and Irish branches of the charity offer the service. Nelson hopes that the majority will provide the service over the next year, although some very small branches might not be able to so.
An intranet linking the branches is planned within the next two years.
The Trustix Firewall runs Trustix Secure Linux, a security hardened version of the operating system.
The proxy server blacklists email addresses and websites that produce abusive content, and blocks access from abroad. It is also used for email caching to increase bandwidth.
Jo Uthus, vice president of product marketing at Trustix, said: "Simplicity of use and total cost of ownership against a Microsoft alternative were major reasons for choosing Trustix software.
"In particular, Trustix licenses per server rather than per user, and there are 18,500 users."
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