A dignified black box with a very stable foam core keeps the IronKey from jostling about during shipping. The instructional booklet summarizes important information such as the self-destruct feature…yup, you heard me right but more on that later.
The IronKey features a tamperproof and waterproof metal case. Besides exuding security in it’s Spartan design, it is also the sexiest USB drive we have ever seen.
Upon inserting the IronKey the first time, it asks you to initialize it by entering its name and the password that will be used to access the key. It offers you to backup your password online just in case of emergencies and then begins creating the AES encryption keys and formatting the secure volume of the drive. Then it asks you to activate the key drive. The online activation process is, of course, done over a secure site and asks you the standard registration questions in addition to some very customizable and personal secret questions you can choose from. Also, you chose a secret phrase that will help protect you from ending up on a site pretending to be the IronKey website.
Usage is like any other key drive, with the exception of entering your IronKey’s password upon insertion to unlock it for use. The IronKey Control Panel is very user-friendly and easy to use.
One of the most interesting features of the IronKey is that upon entering an invalid password 10 times, the drive ‘self-destructs’, permanently erasing all data and rendering the drive useless. Literally useless, in that, it no longer works. If you backed your data up online you can restore the uploaded data to a new IronKey drive which is nice. There is also the ability to run mobile applications such as Firefox from the drive. In the case of Firefox, the drive uses ‘Secure Sessions’ to keep your internet traffic encrypted while browsing. IronKey’s ‘Secure Sessions Service’ sends your web traffic through multiple network routing servers before decrypting it on an IronKey server and sending it to the destination site. This makes it virtually impossible to track who is going where or correlate your surfing to your computer. The IronKey will also store usernames and passwords for frequently visited websites using its very strong AES encryption algorithms. According to the manufacturer’s site, the IronKey can detect being scanned by an electron microscope and will subsequently self-destruct. The IronKey will also self-destruct if it detects physical attacks as all chips are protected with a thin metal shield.
We benchmarked the drive on our AMD X2 6000+ machine with 2GB of RAM in a Windows XP Pro environment using HD Tach Ver 188.8.131.52 and received a steady read speed of 25Mb/sec in a ‘real-world test’ with multiple programs running in the background – very impressive! We began copying a large, 600Mb file over to the drive and recorded speeds of roughly 14Mb/sec (again in our real-world test environment). While copying a number of smaller files, the write speed fluctuated slightly (as expected with multiple start-stops).
You can get an IronKey here.