Martin Co. accepts 3-year deal

FAIRMONT – Although concerns exist about an expensive e-mail encryption service, Martin County commissioners on Tuesday approved continuing the service for three more years.

The Zix software is used by many Minnesota counties and private businesses, but when a bill for $7,205 for the next three years came due, Commissioner Steve Pierce wondered if it is still necessary.

“How many people actively use this?” he asked.

The software originally was purchased in 2010, and is needed to send confidential data to other county agencies and businesses.

The county’s technical supervisor, Steve McDonald, has received few complaints about the software.

“Not everyone needs it,” he said. “But departments like law enforcement and victim/witness coordination use it all the time.”

The software automatically encrypts e-mails that contain sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers, financial information or information covered by health privacy laws. If the parties exchanging the email have Zix encryption, there is no interruption, but if the person receiving the encrypted e-mail does not have the software, they need to go to a special portal and set up an account to see the encrypted e-mail.

“It goes unnoticed when you’re using your official county e-mail addresses, but if you’re using another e-mail address, you will need to go through the portals … It is very time-consuming if you are not a Zix member,” McDonald noted.

While the service is expensive, commissioners agreed that it is less expensive than a lawsuit, should private information fall into the wrong hands, especially with data privacy rules becoming more strict.

“It’s saving us from being sued,” said Commissioner Dan Schmidtke, who later made a motion to purchase the encryption services. it passed unanimously.

In other business, the board approved hiring someone to lead the building maintenance department. For the past several years, there has only been one full-time building maintenance employee at the courthouse and security building.

The building committee suggested bringing back a department head and having one full-time maintenance worker.