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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Survival of Secure Rugged USB Drive

05 January, 2012
More than three years of encrypted data and browsing security using the IronKey Personal flash drive
It was a close call, I thought I’d lost my IronKey, a flash drive with a difference that has followed me around from computer to computer, in internet cafes, friend’s homes and across several countries.



I’ll admit that I’m not the most careful owner of technology. The assorted bits of hardware that accompany most travelling workers are often cosseted with special packaging, tender care and jealous possessiveness. I’m not like that. Laptop, camera, mouse and power supply get chucked in a laptop bag, IronKey in one trouser pocket and mobile phone in the other. All these things are essential tools, they’re not a lifestyle choice and they’re not toys. Instead, I expect them to do their job on demand which is mostly what they do.



I’ve yet to find a laptop which can keep up with the pace for more than about 12 months at a time but the flash drive just keeps on going whatever the weather. So, what is an IronKey and why do I rely on it so much?



The IronKey is a computing environment on an encrypted stick. All the data stored on the flash drive is hardware encrypted and password management for access to the data can’t be cracked. After the 25th attempt to access the drive, the contents are securely and permanently wiped rendering the drive completely useless.



Coupled to that, there is an onboard Firefox browser with all the cookies, history and related data securely held locally on the drive. Leaving no footprint on the computer that its plugged into, your browsing is completely secure enabling you to do your online banking at even the dodgiest of internet cafes without concern. Triple encryption of internet traffic through the drive adds additional layers of protection.



Back-ups are also secure so your backup data can’t be access without the key. If you lose the key, you can access your backup through IronKey support services and restore it to a new key.



Great, but flash drives are notorious for being unreliable aren’t they? Consensus among security experts tells us that we should never use flash drives as backup devices because they can fail instantly and irrevocably, this is after all flash memory and not magnetic or optical media. So this is why I’m surprised that the IronKey is well into its fourth year of reliable, unblemished service.



Actually, surprised isn’t strong enough. I’m amazed. It has been dropped several times, accidentally kicked across the floor, washed, submerged and generally abused in ways that would possibly shock the average careful technophile. The connector is now bent at a jaunty angle after it was booted clumsily while sticking out of the front panel of a tower computer under somebody’s desk. That was in November, six weeks have now passed and it is still working. Apart from the bent connector, the hard steel casing is looking a bit worn and the etched barcode on the back has all but disappeared and I’m expecting it to fail at any moment but I’ll keep using it to the bitter end just to see how long it will last.



As soon as it finally expires, I’ll be straight onto Amazon to buy another one.
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