About two years ago, Skatter Tech reviewed the original IronKey. At the time it was one of the most secure flash drives available to consumers. We recently received an updated model, the IronKey Model S200. Although it may have gone under-noticed by the media, it has some new elements to offer including more security and storage space. And for those of you that don’t know about the IronKey, it’s just like any other flash drive, however it hardware encrypts your data and self-destructs if someone with an incorrect password attempts to use it. When we say self-destruct, we mean it. It doesn’t just use a gimmick to lockup, the innards are destroyed and the device will be rendered entirely useless. It’s not for everyone, but if you carry sensitive information on you, this is an excellent product.
- Military-Grade Encryption
- Stealth Browsing with Firefox
- Built-in Password Manager
- Rugged and Waterproof Device
- Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux
- 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB models
The IronKey is like most flash drives, just plug it in and copy data over. However unlike typical devices, any stored data is encrypted with IronKey’s Cryptochip technology. If you’re a computer security whiz, then you’ll be impressed to hear that it meets Level 3 of the Federal Process Information Standardization 140 (FIPS). The IronKey isn’t just limited to software encryption either, it also uses a 256-bit AES hardware encryption. That means that for the most part, unless you’re working for the NSA or are a hardcore hacker, any data on this device will be unreadable without the right password.
IronKey even takes extra precautions. All the software needed to run the IronKey is stored on-board the flash memory. No data is left over on a host computer’s hard drive or RAM. With an on-screen virtual keyboard, the device is immune to key-loggers. To prevent brute force dictionary attacks, if there are over 10 concurrent incorrect attempts to login, it self-destructs. It won’t explode into pieces, but the insides will become destroyed. It won’t be readable, writable, or usable ever again.
The unit is now also made from a single piece of metal, making it quite durable. The original model was slightly more flimsy with a rear plate. The unit has also passed military-grade waterproof testing. (Electromagnetic shielding too!) And just like the original model, if someone were to pry the unit open to extract the flash memory chip, it will detect their presence and self-destruct upon contact.
In addition to the durable build quality and hardware security, there’s plenty of useful software on the device. There’s a built-in anonymous Firefox browser. It runs off the device with no installation required. No data remnants will be left over on the user’s computer. Plus, with a built-in password manager, you’ll never need to remember all your passwords. The device will store a secured copy of all your logins for important websites. Of course, it requires a master password to utilize any of the credentials.
The Firefox browser also has a specially built encrypted tunnel for browsing. When enabled, all data is sent through a triple-encrypted connection, routed through multiple servers, and eventually directed to the website you visited. (A high-performance dedicated Tor network.) With a masked DNS, it will be nearly impossible to track who you are or your location. So this means, if you are using an unsecure WiFi network or public HotSpot, there’s nothing to worry about.
How It Works:
It’s this simple. Just plug it in and if the software an auto-run dialog should popup in Windows 7. Just click on it and an IronKey window will appear, prompting the user for a password. If the correct key is entered, a second hidden partition on the drive becomes accessible. Just like any other flash drive copy any data over. The read and write speeds were also impressively faster than most flash drives I have used. (About 25Mb/s for both read and write speeds.) The IronKey portable app launcher will remain in the taskbar. It offers a simple interface to launch applications such as Firefox, the backup tool, and any other portable app you install. There’s also a control panel to change passwords, update the on-board IronKey software, and much more. When you’re done with a session, just press the Lock Drive item. It immediately secures and makes the partition vanish.
The IronKey S200 is simply an awesome gadget. It’s the most secure flash drive I’ve come across. There’s nothing groundbreaking that sets it apart from the last iteration, but the simple changes and upgrades are appreciated. That being said, this is still a bit of an overkill for the average person. Unless you’re carrying sensitive corporate data, top-secret information, or are just plain paranoid, you probably don’t need this. The combination of the excellent hardware and software makes this a great device. The only downside is the price. While an average 1GB flash drive costs merely nothing in 2009, the IronKey S200 1GB model has a MSRP of $79. A 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacity models follow priced at $99, $149, $199, and $299, respectively. Even so, it’s a small trade-off if you have something to protect. If your IronKey gets stolen or lost, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your data is secure.