IronKey 1GB Enterprise Special Edition
PROS: Rugged, nearly indestructible physical design; useful online backup and safety features
CONS: Much more expensive than standard USB flash drives; self-destruct feature after 10 password failures might make the device an expensive prospect
RATING:4.5 out of 5
PRICE: $79 for 1GB; $109 for 2GB; $149 for 4GB
RECOMMENDATION: If you’re looking for the ultimate in USB flash drive security, the IronKey USB Drive is as good as it gets.

CONTACT: IronKey • 650-492-4055• www.ironkey.com

Security threats to your IT infrastructure can come from just about anywhere, but one of the most troublesome areas of exposure is mobile devices—particularly, removable USB flash drives. Efficiently securing the data that they hold can be difficult. IronKey has come up with a solution to that problem with its IronKey USB Drive, a secure flash drive that comes loaded with security features. The device is available in three storage sizes (i.e., 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB) and two product lines: A standard version includes secure Web-browsing features for individuals, and an enterprise variant omits some of those more consumer-focused applications. Both variants feature secure online backup functionality that can help keep your data secure (and recoverable).
     
To benefit from the IronKey’s security features, you first need to initialize and configure the device’s security settings. When you use the IronKey USB Drive for the first time, it prompts you for a password. After that password is established, the drive initializes, and the device asks you to create a secure IronKey online account, which you can use later to disable the device in the event of theft or loss, recover passwords, and back up the contents of your IronKey device online. (You can also manually back up files to your local PC.) Those backups are important because IronKey offers a powerful feature that would make Maxwell Smart proud: The IronKey USB Drive comes with a custom cryptographic processor called the IronKey Cryptochip that has its own password-guessing counter. If you (or some nefarious criminal type) make 10 incorrect password attempts while trying to access the device, the IronKey Cryptochip blocks further attempts and triggers a self-destruct sequence that permanently destroys the data on the USB drive. A secure, military-grade process overwrites the data, rendering the device unusable—it won’t start smoking when that happens, but it does become a useless chunk of metal and plastic. Obviously, a device such as the IronKey USB Drive isn’t for the frazzled marketing executive who forgets his or her password three times a week, but for the security conscious, the value is clear.
     
As for physical protection, the IronKey USB Drive is enclosed in a sealed, waterproof metal case, and the open space inside the drive is filled with an epoxy-based compound. If someone tries to open the case, he or she will likely destroy the components in the process. I submerged the device under water, dropped it repeatedly, and even stepped on it a few times, and it always worked reliably when plugged into a USB port.
     
Is the IronKey USB Drive worth the extra money you’ll spend, compared with the cost of standard USB drives? I can tell you that if you’re one of those paranoid IT administrators (and you know who you are), this rugged, impressive piece of hardware could be just what you need, particularly if you work for the military or regularly handle valuable information. The entry cost is a bit steep, but recent well-documented information-security failures on the part of some companies—such as the theft of 45 million credit card numbers from T.J. Maxx last year by hackers—underscores that the cost of inadequate security measures can be exponentially higher. Even if you don’t have Agent 99 printed on your business card, the IronKey USB Drive could be an ironclad solution for your removable-device security needs.

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