Hardware

IronKey flash drive "self-destructs" on too many failed password attempts


IronKeyRemember a month ago when I wrote about the SanDisk flash drive that comes with on-board hardware encryption in "SanDisk launches Cruzer family of USB flash drives with hardware encryption"? Well, looks like IronKey has gone one-up on that.

Not only does the IronKey employ military-grade AES hardware-based encryption, but 10 failed attempts will result in the IronKey "self-destructing" internally.

Essentially, every byte will be overwritten in hardware, rendering data completely unrecoverable, even with forensic tools.

The IronKey it does not rely on "homegrown" cryptographic algorithms that might not have been subjected to rigorous analysis. To this end, the IronKey uses only tested and well-established algorithms. According to their Web site:

The encryption keys used to protect your data are generated in hardware by a FIPS 140-2 compliant True Random Number Generator on the IronKey Cryptochip. This ensures maximum protection via the encryption ciphers. The keys are generated in the Cryptochip when you initialize your IronKey, and they never leave the secure hardware to be placed in flash memory or on your computer.

The best part is, there are no vendor-accessible backdoors to be found in this product: "Backdoor found in Quicken." Also, the innards of the device is filled with black goo, effectively water-proofing it as well as preventing hardware crypto-analysis.

If you are like me and are wondering if the flash drive will really self-destruct, the FAQ says the following:

IronKey's patent-pending "flash-trash" methodology incorporates an exhaustive hardware erase of all flash and Cryptochip memory. This is not a simple clearing of file allocation tables, but a secure overwriting of data. This is done in hardware rather than via a software application for the ultimate protection. You, personally, should not be physically harmed when this happens.

Phew, there you go. How do you currently protect the files on your personal flash drive?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

4 comments
djevans
djevans

Hi Sonja, thanks for the article.

paulmah
paulmah

How do you currently protect the files on your personal flash drive?

paulmah
paulmah

The IronKey supports a number of other features as well (https://www.ironkey.com/overview), and it would be interesting to test them out. Hint: We're probably be doing a "cracking-open" as well to see just how effective the "black goo" is! Will post a new piece then, keep your eyes peeled! :)

djevans
djevans

Paul, how secure is the IronKey?