Preface: You may find the title and the star rating to be divergent or a paradox...I'll get to that in the conclusion, but for now read on.
Recommend this product?
To begin, a little about myself: I like gadgets, I find encryption and security interesting, and I'm a bit of James Bond fan. This would seem to be an Ironkey marketer's trifecta, and indeed the moment I first learned about the Ironkey I was fascinated by the device. Most flash drives have no encryption, meaning anyone with access to the drive also has access to what's stored on it. An encrypted drive however, encrypts the data on the drive, requiring a password to decrypt its content.
Flash drives are small and portable - which is great. A lot of people store personal information on them - which is also great. Yet, you have to realize that small and portable can also be translated into "easily lost", and combining "easily lost" with "personal information" - not so great. Thus, encryption is a great idea for any flash drive that may be used to store sensitive information, and this is the roll the Ironkey seeks to take on.
The Ironkey is packaged quite nicely, arriving in a stylish and sleek black box. This saves the hassle of breaking out the chain saw to open one of those plastic clamshells that commonly house other flash drives. Inside you'll find: the Ironkey (duh), a small black lanyard for attaching to keychains, and a brief set of instructions.
So how tough is it? Well, on the outside you’ll find a hard metal alloy casing, with no flex or “give” at all. It’s pretty robust, but the Ironkey doesn’t stop there – inside you’ll find a hardened epoxy potting compound that completely encases the memory chips and electronic components. Want to have a look on the inside? You’ll be out of luck. It’s pretty impressive. Ironkey’s manufacturer has also pitted this beast against a car in an attempt to crush it…the car lost. It is without a doubt the toughest flash drive I’ve encountered.
So physically we’re good to go, but what about the security features? Well, the Ironkey has passed the FIPS 140-2 Level 3 testing; FIPS stands for Federal Information Processing Standards, and without going into too much detail, this means that the US Government considers these to be the most secure flash drives in the world (no other flash drives have obtained a level 3 status). Onboard is hardware based AES 256-bit encryption; again without going into much detail, this means that if you don’t have the password, you won’t be accessing this drive by cracking the password – it’s virtually uncrackable. Not only that, but the Ironkey also contains a “self-destruct” feature. Enter ten wrong passwords in a row, and the drive will physically destroy itself; not via an explosion (aww), but by erasing, and thus permanently destroying, the encryption chip that lies within. After that the drive is forever destroyed and essentially a paperweight. The self-destruct mode will also activate if the drive senses any physical attempt to dismantle it. Simply put, it doesn’t play around.
Upon first plugging in your key, you’ll have to setup and initialize it. This only takes a few seconds where you declare your password and your drive’s nickname. In choosing your password you can use numbers, letters, special characters, and even spaces. Then, anytime you unlock the device, you have the option of choosing whether you’d like to view the files stored on it, open the key in read-only mode, open the Ironkey control panel, or log into your online Ironkey account. After unlocking it, the drive can be used just as any other flash drive. Also you’re provided the Ironkey control panel, which allows you to create a secure backup, view files on the drive, etc. Locking the drive is as simple as clicking a button on the control panel, or alternatively pressing CTRL L.
As a huge bonus, the Ironkey allows for secure and anonymous web browsing via its inclusion of a built-in version of Firefox. The browser connects through high performance “TOR” servers that effectively mask your identity completely. Any would-be hacker will be unable to view any of your browsing as it is encrypted; the TOR servers also protect you be hiding your IP address. Ironkey also includes “Identity Manager” which will log you into any websites as long as it is plugged into your computer.
All I can say is, wow. This drive really is amazing, and definitely lives up to its claims. However, I can't recommend it. While it's important to ask the question "Is it good?", it's also important to ask "Do I need it?" Quite simply, you don't - this drive's security features go way overboard what anyone would ever realistically need. If you're looking for a secure flash drive, there are plenty on the market that do a fine job for a much cheaper price. So while it's an awesome drive in many respects, I just can't recommend it for the price.
If you don't work for the CIA, and you're paranoid enough to still think you need this drive, your money would be better spent on counseling and therapy.