Security

Review: Ironkey encrypted flash drive

With an increasingly mobile workforce, keeping sensitive data safe and secure is becoming an evermore pressing priority. For many, the most efficient way to secure data is with encryption. That is where the Ironkey encrypted flash drive comes into play.

With an increasingly mobile workforce, keeping sensitive data safe and secure is becoming an evermore pressing priority. For many, the most efficient way to secure data is with encryption. And, while software-based encryption is not bad, the most effective encryption is achieved via hardware. That is where the Ironkey encrypted flash drive comes into play.

Specifications

  • Capacity: 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB
  • Dimensions: 75mm X 19mm X 9mm
  • Weight: .9 oz (25 grams)
  • Waterproof: MIL-STD-810F
  • Operating shock: 16G rms
  • Hardware: USB 2.0 high speed
  • Operating system encryption compatibility: Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP2+, Vista, Macintosh OS X 10.4+, Linux 2.6+
  • Hardware encryption:
    • Data: AES Cipher-Block Chained mode
    • Encryption keys: 128 Hardware DRNG
    • PKI: 2048-bit RSA
    • Hashing: 256-bit SHA
    • FIPS validations: 140-2 Level 2, 186-2, 197
  • Section 508 compliant
  • Price: $149 for 4GB model
  • Additional information
  • For a closer look, check out the Ironkey TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who is it for

The Ironkey encrypted flash drive is designed for any one or any enterprise looking to secure data with military approved 128-bit encryption. The Ironkey system is especially effective for enterprises with mobile workforces because the flash drives can be managed by network administrators via the corporate network and the Internet.

What problem does it solve

Hardware-based encryption increases the overall level of data security substantially, especially for a mobile workforce exposed to potential security breaches from stolen laptops and lost external storage drives like USB thumb drives. Using Ironkey drives to store sensitive data will ensure that information is never revealed to thieves or other nefarious individuals because it will self-destruct the stored data after 10 failed attempts to enter the proper password.

Features

  • Hardware encryption: Software encryption is very difficult to bypass, but it can be done with brute force methods in many cases. Hardware encryption offers yet another level of security. And with the additional self-destruct feature of the Ironkey, users can be assured that data is not going to pass to your typical thief.
  • Self destruct: If a user fails to properly enter the authentication password 10 times, the Ironkey will write over the data on the drive. This is an internal hardware event that cannot be stopped via software. However, if the data has been backed up using the Ironkey application, the data and key can be recovered once a correct password is entered.
  • Administrative management: For enterprises, the deployment of Ironkeys can be managed by a centralized administrator. That administrator can issue keys, log activity, and even shut down and/recover lost or stolen drives.
  • Identity manager: Passwords and other login information can be stored and backed up by the Ironkey. Authentication of frequented sites that require it can be automated securely by your Ironkey.
  • Secure Web surfing: Users can surf the Web through a secure, encrypted IP address, further protecting sensitive information that may be submitted via forms or other Web-based applications.

What's wrong

  • Small storage sizes: The most storage available on an Ironkey as of this review is 8GB. While 8GB may be enough for many applications, it may not be enough for some large files like databases.
  • User error: No matter how good the security system and the encryption, it is still subject to social engineering. Using the Ironkey requires a password and users are prone to revealing those passwords to people they shouldn't.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Keeping data safe is paramount for most enterprises regardless of their size. If the data to be kept safe is relatively small and distributed among many employees, especially employees engaged in activities outside the corporate campus, the Ironkey encrypted flash drive system is one excellent security solution. With administrative support systems and self-destruct features, enterprises can use the Ironkey systems to take steps to verify their data is safe and secure.

User rating

Have you encountered or used an Ironkey encrypted flash drive? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the Ironkey system in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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