But getting back to security, the IronKey’s main claim to fame is not that it protects your data from natural elements, but rather from human ones. While many memory keys these days offer some form of software encryption, this tough nut does so through hardware. It contains a military-grade cryptography-chip that’ll automatically encode all your data (it can never be deactivated) using AES 128-bit encryption. Even better, if you enter the wrong password more than ten times, it self-destructs!
Of course, this is one of the first things I wanted to test, and having to wait until the end of the review for the IronKey to intone in a robotic voice ”you now have five… seconds… to evacuate the building” before spectacularly blowing up and taking several office PCs with it seemed like unfair punishment.
Fortunately, a little research allowed my fevered mind to cool, and I discovered that in this case, self-destruction would be of the distinctly un-dramatic variety. It simply means that both the flash and crypto-chip’s memory are overwritten in hardware, making it theoretically implausible (if not impossible) that your data can ever be recovered. Breaking the casing open to take out the memory chips intact is also made extremely difficult by IronKey using an epoxy compound that is likely to break them if forceful removal is attempted.
Another unique feature takes us back to the casing. One side of the IronKey has a distinctive metal coating that lets you engrave details – like your name, a return postcode/phone number or secure email, depending on the level of information you want to reveal – on it. The way to do this is simply by peeling back the protective coating (actually, this can be slightly tricky), and using a biro or other sharp object to ‘write’ in your details. It works really well, and means you’ll never have to worry about stickers falling off or ugly permanent marker marring your drive’s clean look. The only potential (though unlikey) worry is sharp objects like keys scratching the surface further and making the information illegible.
Like many of its competitors, IronKey lets you backup or store your passwords and other vital data securely online using Password Manager and Secure Backup. A less usual feature is that the flash drive also comes with an embedded version of Firefox. So what? you might say. Similar functionality is offered by Portable Apps for free. Well, yes, but there’s a little feature IronKey calls Tor Technology which makes it all worthwhile. Basically, it lets you surf the web in complete privacy and anonymity. All you do is click a small key icon to activate Secure Sessions, which will hide your identity, computer, and geographic location – it will even tunnel you through unsecured wireless networks. The only downside is that websites can load (sometimes significantly) slower.